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Environmental problems - Chemical approaches

Research Fronts

Fluxes and Chemistry of Marine Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from both natural and anthropogenic sources play a significant role in the global carbon budget and the regional ozone formation or destruction in both the troposphere and stratosphere. This Research Front highlights the current research on marine biogenic VOCs, and contains nine papers focusing on the production, distribution and emissions of various VOCs in marine environments and their contributions to aerosols and correlations with marine biota.

Plastics in the Environment

This Research Front contains papers highlighting cutting-edge research being carried out on plastics in the environment. Such studies are necessary to evaluate and mitigate the widespread environmental impacts after nearly a century of plastic use.

Nanotechnology and Agriculture

This Research Front brings together recent advances in our understanding of the environmental behaviour of nanomaterials, both from an agricultural applications perspective and that of environmental protection.

Organosulfates in the Atmosphere

Sulfur plays a major role in air pollution due to the copious emissions of sulfur dioxide from fossil fuel combustion. In the atmosphere, sulfur dioxide is oxidized to sulfuric acid, which drives multiphase chemistry with organic compounds of biogenic origin to create a plethora of organosulfate compounds in the aerosol phase. Evaluation of the environmental and health impacts of organosulfates relies on knowledge of their molecular composition as well as quantitative information about their atmospheric presence. This Research Front brings together papers reporting the detection and quantification of organosulfates in various atmospheric environments across the world, and thereby produces new insights into the atmospheric chemistry of organosulfates.

Tellurium in Biological and Environmental Systems: After Fukushima

Tellurium is of increasing technological importance and is a critical element for the development of green energy technologies. The Fukushima accident in 2011 boosted research into tellurium and its environmental behaviour. This Research Front presents a collection of papers that showcases current environmental research on tellurium.

Microplastics in Soils

Environmental contamination of soils with plastic waste is a growing global concern as soils are not only important ecosystems but also form the basis for human food production. The papers in this Research Front represent the current active research on microplastics in soils.

Biogeochemical Cycles across Spatial and Temporal Scales

The papers in this Research Front explore biogeochemical processes at various scales and the roles that changing physiochemical conditions and biota play in the formation and cycling of chemical species in natural environments.

Antimony – Environmental Issues to Human Health

This Research Front presents a series of papers on antimony environmental research, addressing several important topics such as development of analytical detection procedures, chemical speciation, environmental cycling, mechanisms by which plants and cells accumulate and exclude antimony, and potential environmental risks.


This Research Front arose from the ‘9th International Conference on Environmental Effects of Nanoparticles and Nanomaterials’. This was a conference attended by nearly 150 people from 17 countries, at which the future environmental and health implications of ‘next generation’ nanoparticles was discussed—in particular, with a focus on nanohybrids, a key development in nanotechnology. The papers presented in this Research Front represent some of the best work on environmental nanoscience and the ecotoxicology of nanoparticles available.

Tribute to Bill Davison

This Research Front is dedicated to the career of Professor Bill Davison and was initiated to mark his recent retirement from his position as Professor of Environmental Chemistry at Lancaster University, UK.

Mineral–Organic Interactions in Aqueous Systems

This Research Front presents contributions discussing various aspects of mineral surface reactions and their environmental relevance using experimental, spectroscopic and simulation methods. It represents the multitude of interactions that are being probed using complementary experimental and modelling approaches.

Arsenic Biogeochemistry and Health

This Research Front presents contributions discussing a variety of aspects related to arsenic biogeochemistry and health. It includes research results presented in a special topic session (Arsenic: current issues of speciation, environmental behaviour, and human health impacts) at the 29th International Conference of the Society for Environmental Geochemistry and Health held in Toulouse in July 2013.

Detection of Nanoparticles in the Environment

This Research Front comprises papers that present research on the detection of nanoparticles in the environment. Overall, significant advances have been made recently to detect engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) in environmental samples and in toxicological media. Although measurements are still not routine, the papers show promising developments have been made that will allow us to have greater confidence in our measurements of ENP concentrations and size distributions, thus enabling environmental regulators to evaluate the presently missing, yet key component of environmental risk, i.e. exposure.

Nanoparticles – Toxicity

More than a decade of research has been conducted on the ecotoxicology of manufactured nanomaterials (MNMs), or econanotoxicology. This Research Front presents a collection of papers that demonstrate that considerable progress is being made addressing the complexities of predicting the toxicity of MNMs in ecosystems. This progress is reflected in a greater awareness of the importance of environmental transformations and of methodological considerations, the use of powerful model organisms, and development of new assays and methods to predict and quantify exposure and bioavailability.

Applications of Electrochemistry to Environmental Chemistry

This Research Front grew out of a COST Action ( ES801 workshop on ‘Voltammetry and GEOTRACES’ held in Croatia on 6–9 October 2012. The aim of the meeting was to critically discuss the role of voltammetric techniques for today’s chemical oceanography and especially in the current international GEOTRACES program. The Research Front features contributions examining a wide range of modern topics in environmental chemistry illustrating the applicability and adaptability of electrochemical methods.

Diffusion Gradients in Thin Films (DGT)

This Research Front features contributions discussing and using the in-situ probe Diffusion Gradients in Thin-films (DGT) to determine trace element behaviour in environmental systems. The Research Front presents the state of the art in DGT science, beginning with a review by the joint originators and developers William Davison and Hao Zhang, which presents a readable introduction to the origins of the method and a high level discussion of its uses and applications. The research papers that follow illustrate some of these uses and highlight the flexibility of DGT by covering applications to a range of analytes in a range of environmental media.

Manufactured Nanoparticles in the Environment

High quality science is required to drive forward our understanding of manufactured nanoparticles in the environment and this Research Front comprises papers demonstrating some of the best science currently being performed in this area. Although there are challenges in understanding the risks and behaviour of nanoparticles, and new potential risks arrive with new developments, the field has a vitality and maturity which indicates these challenges will be met with enthusiasm.

Speciation: Why Does It Defy Definition?

In environmental chemistry, a knowledge of speciation is critical to understanding the transport, accumulation, bioavailability and toxicity of elements within and between the environmental compartments of air, soil, water, sediments and biota. This Research Front presents papers on speciation and why it defies definition.

Antimony in the Environment

This Research Front presents a series of papers on various aspects of antimony’s environmental chemistry in order to enable readers to get some insight into the topic and its pressing issues. These papers highlight the biogeochemical cycling of Sb, its sources, transport through environmental compartments, and risk assessment.

Perchlorate in the Environment

In this Research Front a series of papers from widely different perspectives is presented in order to provide a starting point from which the following question can be answered: should perchlorate still qualify as an emerging contaminant of concern?

Environmental Mercury – An Arctic focus

The papers in this Research Front provide valuable new information and opinion on Asian mercury emissions, mercury cycling in Polar regions, and the toxicological relevance. While these papers not only provide new findings and answers they also pose several important questions and provide a snapshot of current research directions to set a useful scene for future research.

CLAW Hypothesis 20 years on

This Research Front focuses on the research arising from the publication of the ‘CLAWHypothesis’, a paper published over 20 years ago in Nature. The papers presented assess the progress made on the understanding of the role of biogenically-derived sulfur emissions in modifying cloud albedo and hence climate.

Cadmium Bioavailability and Biosorption

This Research Front features a series of papers that focus on cadmium as an environmental contaminant. This emphasis on cadmium is welcome and perhaps overdue. Unlike mercury and lead, two metals that are widely recognized as environmental contaminants, cadmium historically has had a much lower profile.

Environmental Nanoparticles

This Research Front on environmental nanoparticles comprises a series of review and research papers on their characterization and properties.


The contents of this Research Front on the topic of extremophiles gives us a brief glimpse into the diversity of this rapidly expanding field. Over the next decades we will continue to uncover new extremophiles, with novel ways of dealing with extreme conditions and new extremozymes will be put to work.

Arsenic Biogeochemistry

This Research Front comprises papers that provide a good overview of current arsenic biogeochemistry research.

Marine Iron Biogeochemistry

The opportunity for robust scientific debate occurs too infrequently, and it was felt appropriate that, as a new journal, Environmental Chemistry might take the opportunity to foster rather than prevent such debate where the opportunity presented itself. The papers in this Research Forum on the topic of marine iron biogeochemistry are our first science offering in this arena.