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Natural nanoparticles of the critical element tellurium


Missen, OP and Lausberg, ER and Brugger, J and Etschmann, B and Mills, SJ and Momma, K and Ram, R and Maruyama, M and Fang, X-Y and Melchiorre, E and Ryan, CG and Villalobos-Portillo, EE and Castillo-Michel, H and Nitta, K and Sekizawa, O and Shuster, J and Sanyal, SK and Frierdich, A and Hunt, S and Tsuri, Y and Takahashi, Y and Michibata, U and Dwivedi, S and Rea, MA, Natural nanoparticles of the critical element tellurium, Journal of Hazardous Materials Letters, 3 Article 100053. ISSN 2666-9110 (2022) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1016/j.hazl.2022.100053


Tellurium (Te) is a Critical Element that is toxic to microorganisms and humans alike, most notably in its soluble oxyanionic forms. To date, the biogeochemical behaviour of Te in Earth’s surface environment is largely unknown. Here, we report the discovery of elemental Te nanoparticles (Te NPs) in regolith samples using Single-Particle Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy. Tellurium NPs were detected in both proximal and distal locations (bulk concentrations >4 ppm) relative to weathering Te ores. Synchrotron X-ray Fluorescence Mapping and X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy showed that bulk Te in the regolith is generally associated with Fe (oxyhydr)oxides and clay minerals, and mostly found in the oxidation states +IV and +VI. Although Te NPs account for less than 2 mol‰ of Te in our samples, their detection provides evidence for the active biogeochemical cycling of Te in surface environments. Te NPs are reactive and are likely to have formed in situ in distal samples, most likely via microbially-mediated reduction. Hence, the presence of Te NPs indicates the potential for release of toxic soluble forms of Te even in environments where most Te is "fixed" in forms such as Fe (oxyhydr)oxides that have low solubility and poor bioavailability.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Tellurium, Biogeochemistry, Nanoparticles, Mineral transformations, Moctezuma, Sonora, Mexico
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Geology
Research Field:Biomineralisation
Objective Division:Mineral Resources (Excl. Energy Resources)
Objective Group:Environmentally sustainable mineral resource activities
Objective Field:Environmentally sustainable mineral resource activities not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Missen, OP (Dr Owen Missen)
ID Code:154977
Year Published:2022
Deposited By:CODES ARC
Deposited On:2023-01-20
Last Modified:2023-01-21

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