Fundamental and applied research

Why synchrotrons for environmental science?

Molecular Environmental Science (MES) research at SSRL focuses on the fundamental interfacial, molecular- and nano-scale processes that control contaminant and nutrient cycling in the biosphere with the goal of elucidating global elemental cycles and anthropogenic influences on the environment. Key areas of investigation include the: (a) Structural chemistry of water and dissolved solutes, (b) Structural chemistry and reactivity of complex natural environmental materials with respect to heavy metals and metalloids (biominerals, Fe- and Mn-oxides, biofilms, and organic materials), (c) Reactions at environmental interfaces, including sorption, precipitation and dissolution processes that affect the bioavailability of heavy metals and other contaminants, and (d) Microbial transformations of metals and anions. SSRL-based MES research utilizes synchrotron-based x-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), x-ray diffraction (XRD), small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS), x-ray standing wave (XSW) spectroscopy, and photoemission spectroscopy (PES) because of their unique capabilities to probe structure/composition relationships in complex, non-crystalline, and dilute materials.