Enhancing analytical capabilities in soils for low-carbon technologies

Soils are essential to a range of emerging low-carbon technologies.  In soil chemistry, co-ordination and valence of iron (Fe) and aluminium (Al) ions are of great importance across different applications. Iron’s ability to bind organic matter influences soils’ capacity for carbon capture. Aluminium’s co-ordination state (broadly, the number and identity of atoms it is bonded with) is crucial in soils’ suitability for manufacturing low-carbon cements. It is therefore essential to monitor these elements’ chemical environments in order to understand and optimise their roles.  

Emerging micro-analytical microscopy and spectroscopy techniques have great potential to improve understanding of these aspects of soil chemistry at the micro to nano scale, improving upon commonly used bulk-scale techniques.  

Data collected from this project will enable academics to determine how the local chemistry controls bulk performance (and hence the overall effectiveness) for low-carbon technologies.  

The White Rose consortium hosts internationally leading expertise and facilities in probing local chemical environments: 

  • Transmission Electron Microscopy with Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy (TEM-EELS) at the University of Leeds 
  • Scanning Transmission X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (ST-XAS) at the University of Sheffield and  
  • Expertise on soils as low-cost resources for carbon capture at the University of York and cements at the University of Leeds.  

The aim of this project is to combine different analytical microscopy and spectroscopy techniques to accurately identify and monitor Iron and Aluminium co-ordination and speciation in soils at the micro to nano scale.  

The advances made in investigating the variety of these chemical environments at these scales will also help tackle outstanding questions around soils role in low-carbon technologies.  

Lead Academic at Lead Institution 
Dr Alastair Marsh – Civil Engineering, University of Leeds 

Lead academics at other institutions 
Dr Brant Walkley – Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Sheffield 
Prof Mark Hodson – Environment and Geography, University of York 

Other White Rose Academics: 

University of Leeds:  
Dr Helen Freeman – Chemical and Process Engineering 
Dr Andy Brown – Chemical and Process Engineering 
Prof Susan Bernal Lopez – Civil Engineering 
Ms Victoria Leadley – Civil Engineering 

University of Sheffield:  
Dr Martin Stennett – Materials Science and Engineering 
Prof Neil Hyatt – Materials Science and Engineering 

University of York:  
Dr Robert Mills -Environment and Geography 

Other Academics and Partners:  
Ms Helen Pendlowski – James Hutton Institute; Mineralogical Society 
Dr Anke Neumann – Newcastle University 

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