Minerals, it is generally agreed, are naturally occurring crystalline substances having a characteristic and defined chemical composition. Each mineral expresses a set of specific physical and chemical properties. In addition, nanominerals have one critical difference. They express a range of physical and chemical properties depending on their size and shape.
This difference changes our view of the diversity and complexity of minerals and how they influence Earth systems, Hochella said.
Where nanominerals are
Nanominerals are widely distributed throughout the atmosphere, oceans, surface and ground waters, and soils, and in most living organisms, and even within proteins.
Oceans may be the principal reservoir, since they cover 70 percent of the Earths surface. There, nanominerals can come from processes associated with both living and non-living things, Hochella said. Every mineral goes through a nanophase stage as it begins to grow. If they begin to grow at many sites, but don't continue to grow much after they form, you will end up with a lot of them and they may persist.
In addition to growth and weathering, mineral nanoparticles can be generated from mechanical grinding. One of the most interesting and important places where this happens is along earthquake-generating faults in the Earths crust, reported by several researchers cited in the review.
There is a distinction between clusters of atoms and nanoparticles,
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