Minerals2014, 4(1), 130-144; doi:10.3390/min4010130 - published online 5 March 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The future availability of helium has been raised as an issue in the literature. However, a disaggregated projection of helium production has not been attempted, presumably due to the difficult nature of accessing disaggregated historic production data to test the accuracy of this issue. This paper presents collated and estimated historic helium production statistics from 1921 to 2012 for each helium producing country in the world and by U.S. state. A high and regular growth projection of helium has been created. It is found that helium resources are sufficient for the near future, with the projected production plateauing in 2060–2075 and 2090–2100 for the high and regular growth scenarios, respectively. As long as natural gas deposits with helium are appropriately managed, there is little likelihood for helium shortages to occur in the short term due to geologic constraints.
Minerals2014, 4(1), 118-129; doi:10.3390/min4010118 - published online 4 March 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Intermolecular chemical networks defined by the hydrogen bonds formed at the α-quartz|water interface have been data-mined using graph theoretical methods so as to identify and quantify structural patterns and dynamic behavior. Using molecular-dynamics simulations data, the hydrogen bond (H-bond) distributions for the water-water and water-silanol H-bond networks have been determined followed by the calculation of the persistence of the H-bond, the dipole-angle oscillations that water makes with the surface silanol groups over time, and the contiguous H-bonded chains formed at the interface. Changes in these properties have been monitored as a function of surface coverage. Using the H-bond distribution between water and the surface silanol groups, the actual number of waters adsorbed to the surface is found to be 0.6 H2O/10 Å2, irrespective of the total concentration of waters within the system. The unbroken H-bond network of interfacial waters extends farther than in the bulk liquid; however, it is more fluxional at low surface coverages (i.e., the H-bond persistence in a monolayer of water is shorter than in the bulk) Concentrations of H2O at previously determined water adsorption sites have also been quantified. This work demonstrates the complementary information that can be obtained through graph theoretical analysis of the intermolecular H-bond networks relative to standard analyses of molecular simulation data.
Minerals2014, 4(1), 89-115; doi:10.3390/min4010089 - published online 14 February 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The reactivity of mineral surfaces in the fundamental processes of adsorption, dissolution or growth, and electron transfer is directly tied to their atomic structure. However, unraveling the relationship between the atomic surface structure and other physical and chemical properties of complex metal oxides is challenging due to the mixed ionic and covalent bonding that can occur in these minerals. Nonetheless, with the rapid increase in computer processing speed and memory, computer simulations using different theoretical techniques can now probe the nature of matter at both the atomic and sub-atomic levels and are rapidly becoming an effective and quantitatively accurate method for successfully predicting structures, properties and processes occurring at mineral surfaces. In this study, we have used Density Functional Theory calculations to study the adsorption of benzene on hematite (α-Fe2O3) surfaces. The strong electron correlation effects of the Fe 3d-electrons in α-Fe2O3 were described by a Hubbard-type on-site Coulomb repulsion (the DFT+U approach), which was found to provide an accurate description of the electronic and magnetic properties of hematite. For the adsorption of benzene on the hematite surfaces, we show that the adsorption geometries parallel to the surface are energetically more stable than the vertical ones. The benzene molecule interacts with the hematite surfaces through π-bonding in the parallel adsorption geometries and through weak hydrogen bonds in the vertical geometries. Van der Waals interactions are found to play a significant role in stabilizing the absorbed benzene molecule. Analyses of the electronic structures reveal that upon benzene adsorption, the conduction band edge of the surface atoms is shifted towards the valence bands, thereby considerably reducing the band gap and the magnetic moments of the surface Fe atoms.
Minerals2014, 4(1), 74-88; doi:10.3390/min4010074 - published online 7 February 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Surface encrustation by minerals, which impedes cellular metabolism, is a potential hazard for microbes. The reduction of U(VI) to U(IV) by Shewanella oneidensis strain MR-1 leads to the precipitation of the mineral uraninite, as well as a non-crystalline U(IV) product. The wild-type (WT) strain can produce extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), prompting precipitation of U some distance from the cells and precluding encrustation. Using cryo-transmission electron microscopy and scanning transmission X-ray microscopy we show that, in the biofilm-deficient mutant ∆mxdA, as well as in the WT strain to a lesser extent, we observe the formation of membrane vesicles (MVs) as an additional means to lessen encrustation. Additionally, under conditions in which the WT does not produce EPS, formation of MVs was the only observed mechanism to mitigate cell encrustation. Viability studies comparing U-free controls to cells exposed to U showed a decrease in the number of viable cells in conditions where MVs alone are detected, yet no loss of viability when cells produce both EPS and MVs. We conclude that MV formation is a microbial strategy to shed encrusted cell surfaces but is less effective at maintaining cell viability than the precipitation of U on EPS.
Minerals2014, 4(1), 52-73; doi:10.3390/min4010052 - published online 29 January 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Diffuse metal pollution from mining impacted sediment is widely recognised as a potential source of contamination to river systems and may significantly hinder the achievement of European Union Water Framework Directive objectives. Redox-transitional zones that form along metal contaminated river banks as a result of flood and drought cycles could cause biogeochemical changes that alter the behaviour of polyvalent metals iron and manganese and anions such as sulphur. Trace metals are often partitioned with iron, manganese and sulphur minerals in mining-contaminated sediment, therefore the dissolution and precipitation of these minerals may influence the mobility of potentially toxic trace metals. Research indicates that freshly precipitated metal oxides and sulphides may be more “reactive” (more adsorbent and prone to dissolution when conditions change) than older crystalline forms. Fluctuations at the oxic-anoxic interface brought about through changes in the frequency and duration of flood and drought episodes may therefore influence the reactivity of secondary minerals that form in the sediment and the flux of dissolved trace metal release. UK climate change models predict longer dry periods for some regions, interspersed with higher magnitude flood events. If we are to fully comprehend the future environmental risk these climate change events pose to mining impacted river systems it is recommended that research efforts focus on identifying the primary controls on trace metal release at the oxic-anoxic interface for flood and drought cycles of different duration and frequency. This paper critically reviews the literature regarding biogeochemical processes that occur at different temporal scales during oxic, reducing and dry periods and focuses on how iron and sulphur based minerals may alter in form and reactivity and influence the mobility of trace metal contaminants. It is clear that changes in redox potential can alter the composition of secondary iron and sulphur minerals and influence the sorption of toxic trace metals and susceptibility to dissolution when further redox potential changes occur. However further work is needed to determine: (i) The extent to which different duration and frequency of wet and dry cycles influences the dissolution and precipitation of iron and sulphur minerals in mining contaminated river bank sediment; (ii) The temporal effects on mineral reactivity (sorption capacity and susceptibility to dissolution); (iii) The key biogeochemical processes that control the mobility of contaminant trace metals under these dynamic redox potential conditions.