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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Jan 25;102(4):979-82. Epub 2005 Jan 12.

Nanoscale environments associated with bioweathering of a Mg-Fe-pyroxene.

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  • 1Surface and Aqueous Geochemistry Group, Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2115, USA.


Microorganisms are believed to create microenvironments leading to reaction products not predictable from equilibrium thermodynamics and to unique biomineral morphologies. Unambiguous evidence for such environments is, however, rare in natural samples. We have used scanning transmission x-ray microscopy and spectromicroscopy at the sub-40-nm scale, coupled with transmission electron microscopy, to examine bioweathering products on a meteoritic Fe-Mg-orthopyroxene colonized by a filamentous microorganism. Our measurements reveal an amorphous Al-rich layer beneath the microorganism, calcium carbonates of unique morphology intimately associated with polysaccharides adjacent to the microorganism, and regions surrounding the microorganism with different iron oxidation states. Our results confirm the presence of different microenvironments at this microorganism-mineral interface and provide unique nanometer-scale views of microbially controlled pyroxene weathering products.

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