Accessibility navigation

Sulfate and molybdate incorporation at the calcite–water interface: insights from ab initio molecular dynamics

Midgley, S. D., Di Tommaso, D. ORCID:, Fleitmann, D. and Grau-Crespo, R. ORCID: (2021) Sulfate and molybdate incorporation at the calcite–water interface: insights from ab initio molecular dynamics. ACS Earth and Space Chemistry. ISSN 2472-3452

Text (Open Access) - Published Version
· Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

To link to this item DOI: 10.1021/acsearthspacechem.1c00131


Sulfur and molybdenum trace impurities in speleothems (stalagmites and stalactites) can provide long and continuous records of volcanic activity, which are important for past climatic and environmental reconstructions. However, the chemistry governing the incorporation of the trace element-bearing species into the calcium carbonate phases forming speleothems is not well understood. Our previous work has shown that substitution of tetrahedral oxyanions [XO4]2– (X = S and Mo) replacing [CO3]2– in CaCO3 bulk phases (except perhaps for vaterite) is thermodynamically unfavorable with respect to the formation of competing phases, due to the larger size and different shape of the [XO4]2– tetrahedral anions in comparison with the flat [CO3]2– anions, which implied that most of the incorporation would happen at the surface rather than at the bulk of the mineral. Here, we present an ab initio molecular dynamics study, exploring the incorporation of these impurities at the mineral–water interface. We show that the oxyanion substitution at the aqueous calcite (10.4) surface is clearly favored over bulk incorporation, due to the lower structural strain on the calcium carbonate solid. Incorporation at surface step sites is even more favorable for both oxyanions, thanks to the additional interface space afforded by the surface line defect to accommodate the tetrahedral anion. Differences between sulfate and molybdate substitutions can be mostly explained by the size of the anions. The molybdate oxyanion is more difficult to incorporate in the calcite bulk than the smaller sulfate oxyanion. However, when molybdate is substituted at the surface, the elastic cost is avoided because the oxyanion protrudes out of the surface and gains stability via the interaction with water at the interface, which in balance results in more favorable surface substitution for molybdate than for sulfate. The detailed molecular-level insights provided by our calculations will be useful to understand the chemical basis of S- and Mo-based speleothem records.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > Department of Chemistry
ID Code:99515
Publisher:American Chemical Society


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation