NSF grant focuses on manganese oxides in environment

Since summer 2020, Assistant Professor Bojeong Kim has been working on a three-year National Science Foundation grant to examine how impurities in hausmannite and manganite—the most common lower valent manganese oxides in the environment—affect the minerals’ properties, reactivity and stability.

“In the natural environment, most minerals contain some degree of impurities,” says Kim. “Understanding the role of these impurities is really important to understanding how these minerals behave in nature.” So far, Kim’s research indicates that impurities in the structure of these two manganese oxides makes them stronger oxidants capable, for example, of effectively oxidizing arsenic to reduce its toxicity. “Therefore,” she says, “laboratory experiments with pristine minerals may not closely reflect the heterogeneity and complexity in natural settings.”

Although hausmannite and manganite are widely used in important industrial applications, including in batteries, other energy storage devices and sensors, the minerals are often understudied in the field of environmental geochemistry. In addition to Kim, PI, the $487,000 project’s researchers include Elizabeth Cerkez, assistant professor of instruction in the Chemistry Department, and Evert Elzinga, associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Rutgers University.

This project requires the use of stateof-the art instrumentation, including transmission electron microscopy (Kim), attenuated total reflectancefourier transform infrared spectroscopy (Cerkez) and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (Elzinga). In addition, graduate and undergraduate students at both Temple and Rutgers are involved in the research. The grant also provides funding for the researchers to give science presentations to elementary schools and local retirement communities.

-Bruce E. Beans

September 7, 2021