Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continue to rise – in 2012 alone, 35.7 billion tons of this greenhouse gas entered the atmosphere*. Some of this CO2 is absorbed by the oceans, plants and soil. As such, they provide a significant reservoir of carbon, stemming the release of CO2.
Carbon tends to bind to specific rough mineral surfaces in the soil (yellow areas). (Image: C. Vogel/TUM)
New organic carbon mostly accumulates on existing hot spots. Left: Mineral surfaces with all accumulations of carbon (yellow). Right: Mineral surfaces with new organic substance (green and magenta). (Image: C. Vogel/TUM)
Scientists have now discovered how organic carbon is stored in soil. Basically, the carbon only binds to certain soil structures. This means that soil’s capacity to absorb CO2 needs to be re-assessed and incorporated into today’s climate models.
Previous studies have established that carbon binds to tiny mineral particles. In this latest study, published in Nature Communications, researchers of the Technische Universität München (TUM) and the Helmholtz Zentrum München have shown that the surface of the minerals plays just as important a role as their size. “The carbon binds to minerals that are just a few thousandths of a millimeter in size – and it accumulates there almost exclusively on rough and angular surfaces,” explains Prof. Ingrid Kögel-Knabner, TUM Chair of Soil Science.
The role of microorganisms in sequestering carbon
It is presumed that the rough mineral surfaces provide an attractive habitat for microbes. These convert the carbon and play a part in binding it to minerals. “We discovered veritable hot spots with a high proportion of carbon in the soil,” relates Cordula Vogel, the lead author of the study. “Furthermore, new carbon binds to areas which already have a high carbon content.”
These carbon hot spots are, however, only found on around 20 percent of the mineral surfaces. It was previously assumed that carbon is evenly distributed in the soil. “Thanks to our study, we can now pin-point the soil that is especially good for sequestering CO2,” continues Kögel-Knabner. “The next step is to include these findings in carbon cycle models.”
Mass spectrometer helps to visualize molecules
The sample material used by the team was loess, a fertile agricultural soil found in all parts of the world – which makes it a very important carbon store. The researchers were able to take ultra-precise measurements using the NanoSIMS mass spectrometer. This procedure allowed them to view and compare even the most minute soil structures.
*Source: Global Carbon AtlasPublication:
Six-decade-old space mystery solved with shoebox-sized satellite called a CubeSat
15.12.2017 | National Science Foundation
NSF-funded researchers find that ice sheet is dynamic and has repeatedly grown and shrunk
15.12.2017 | National Science Foundation
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
15.12.2017 | Life Sciences