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Soil Colloidal Behavior

Authored by: Sabine Goldberg , Inmaculada Lebron , John C. Seaman , Donald L. Suarez

Handbook of Soil Sciences Properties and Processes

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  November  2011

Print ISBN: 9781439803059
eBook ISBN: 9781439803066
Adobe ISBN:


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The importance of colloids in soil science has been appreciated for many years. However, recent understanding that organic and inorganic contaminants are often transported via colloidal particles has increased interest in colloid science. Essentially, all chemicals and individual species are to some extent reactive with soils, including species such as chloride ions, which undergo repulsion from negatively charged surfaces. With few exceptions, soil chemistry is primarily the chemistry of colloids and surfaces. The primary importance of colloids in soil science stems from their surface reactivity and charge characteristics. The overwhelming majority of surface area and electrostatic charge in a soil resides in the less than 1 μm size fraction with particles with radii between 20 and 1000 nm constituting the major part of the soil surface area (Borkovec et al., 1993). A significant fraction of reactive soil colloidal material falls within the <100 nm size range and thus is relevant to the growing interest in the properties and behavior of nanoparticles. Furthermore, soil is often the ultimate repository for anthropogenic nanomaterials of environmental concern (Hochella, 2008; Theng and Yuan, 2008; Waychunas and Zhang, 2008). The unique aspects of “nanoscience” as a discipline separate from colloid science reflect deviations in material properties in the nanoparticle size range, especially for materials <10 nm, and in many cases the lack of a natural bulk analog in the larger size fractions, for example, fer-rihydrite (Hochella, 2008; Waychunas and Zhang, 2008).

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