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What molecular interactions govern adsorption of organic molecules to sheet silicates, zeolites and biochar?

This biogeochemistry / geochemistry research project details a plan to improve our understanding of adsorption and desorption processes of small organics compounds such as amino acids to soil relevant minerals, such as sheet silicates and zeolites, and biochar. This will be accomplished by resolving the chemical interactions – on the molecular scale – between of amino acids and the different surfaces using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations on High Performance Computing Center North (HPC2N/UMU) and with other computational resources.

The main research task aims to elucidate the role of different organic functional groups, types of molecular interactions and surface characteristics that facilitate surface adsorption (as well as desorption) to the different types of surfaces. We will focus on adsorption reactions of free amino acids to sheet silicates, zeolites and biochar for two reasons: i) Nitrogen (N) is the primary limiting nutrient in many terrestrial ecosystems and hence a bottle-neck for increased plant productivity and soil carbon (C) input, and ii) the new paradigm stressing the importance of organic-N over inorganic-N for plant productivity.

In addition to this, since the amino acids can be considered to be analogues for small soil organic matter (SOM) molecules, this research can hopefully contribute to our overall understanding and future models describing C and N cycling in our thin and fragile soil layers, which store more C than the oceans, terrestrial surface and atmosphere combined.

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Recipient: Michael Holmboe
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