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Mineral weathering is a balanced interplay among physical, chemical, and biological processes. Fundamental knowledge gaps exist in characterizing the biogeochemical mechanisms that transform microbe-mineral interfaces at submicron scales, particularly in complex field systems. Our objective was to develop methods targeting the nanoscale by using high-resolution microscopy to assess biological and geochemical drivers of weathering in natural settings. Basalt, granite, and quartz (53-250 µm) were deployed in surface soils (10 cm) of three ecosystems (semiarid, subhumid, humid) for one year. We successfully developed a reference grid method to analyze individual grains using: (1) helium ion microscopy to capture micron to sub-nanometer imagery of mineral-organic interactions; and (2) scanning electron microscopy to quantify elemental distribution on the same surfaces via element mapping and point analyses. We detected locations of biomechanical weathering, secondary mineral precipitation, biofilm formation, and grain coatings across the three contrasting climates. To our knowledge, this is the first time these coupled microscopy techniques were applied in the earth and ecosystem sciences to assess microbe-mineral interfaces and in situ biological contributors to incipient weathering.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Scientific reports
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A method of simultaneously imaging and measuring elements at the submicron level. Nuclear microscopy uses a focused high-energy ion beam of PROTONS and ALPHA PARTICLES (a nuclear microprobe) to interact with the sample. The resulting emitted radiations are analyzed by a group of techniques simultaneously: PARTICLE INDUCED X RAY EMISSION SPECTROMETRY for minor and trace element identification; Rutherford Backscattering Spectroscopy to assess sample thickness and bulk elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen; and Scanning Transmission Ion Microscopy to assess sample structure and density.
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Microscopy in which the samples are first stained immunocytochemically and then examined using an electron microscope. Immunoelectron microscopy is used extensively in diagnostic virology as part of very sensitive immunoassays.
Scanning microscopy in which a very sharp probe is employed in close proximity to a surface, exploiting a particular surface-related property. When this property is local topography, the method is atomic force microscopy (MICROSCOPY, ATOMIC FORCE), and when it is local conductivity, the method is scanning tunneling microscopy (MICROSCOPY, SCANNING TUNNELING).
Microscopy of specimens stained with fluorescent dye (usually fluorescein isothiocyanate) or of naturally fluorescent materials, which emit light when exposed to ultraviolet or blue light. Immunofluorescence microscopy utilizes antibodies that are labeled with fluorescent dye.
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