Office of Academic Affairs
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal

Earth and Environmental Sciences

EES 303: Geochemistry (3)

Prerequisites (Desirable): All 100 and 200 level CHM, EES and PHY courses

Learning Objectives:

This course first lays out the basic principles and techniques of modern geochemistry, beginning with a review of thermodynamics and kinetics as they apply to the Earth and its environment. These basic concepts are then applied to understanding processes in aqueous systems and the behavior of trace elements in magmatic systems. This course also introduces radiogenic and stable isotope geochemistry and illustrates their application to such diverse topics as determining geologic time, ancient climates, and the diets of prehistoric peoples. The focus then broadens to the formation of the solar system, the Earth, and the elements themselves. Then the composition of the Earth itself becomes the topic, examining the composition of the core, the mantle, and the crust and exploring how this structure originated. This course also covers organic chemistry, including the origin of fossil fuels and the carbon cycle’s role in controlling Earth’s climate, both in the geologic past and the rapidly changing present.

Course Contents:

History of geochemistry; The philosophy of science; Standard units of measurements; Geochemical systems and variables; Elements, atoms, and the structure of matter; Elements and the periodic table; Elemental associations and bonding; Goldschmidt's rules of substitution.

Aqueous Solutions and their Chemistry:
Water as a solvent; Activity-concentration relationships; Acid–base reactions; Solubility of salts; The Carbonic Acid System; Complexation; Dissolution and precipitation reactions and the calcium carbonate system; pH control of dissociation equilibria; Solubility of amorphous Silica; Clays and their properties; Mineral surfaces and their interaction with solutions; Reaction path calculations.

Oxidation Reduction Reactions:
Balancing redox equations; The Nernst equation; Oxidation potential; Eh-pH diagrams; Stability limits of water in terms of Eh and pH; Stability of Iron compounds; Role of microorganisms in redox reactions; Oxidation of sulphide minerals; Oxygen Fugacity.

Radiogenic Isotope Geochemistry:
Physics of the nucleus and the structure of nuclei; Basics of radiogenic isotope geochemistry; Decay systems and their applications; Principles of radiometric geochronology; Cosmogenic and fossil isotopes.

Stable Isotope Geochemistry:
Theoretical considerations; Isotope geothermometry; Isotopic fractionation in the hydrologic system; Isotopic fractionation in biological systems; Evaporation and condensation processes; Estimation of water-rock ratios.

Mixing and Dilution:
Binary mixtures; Dilution; Evaporative concentration; Ternary mixtures; Isotopic mixtures of one element; Isotopic mixtures of two elements. 

The Core-Mantle-Crust System:
Cosmic perspective; Big Bang and nucleosynthesis; Origin of the solar system; Origin of the Earth-like planets; Satellites of the outer planets; Evolution of the Earth; Chemical differentiation of the Earth; The Earth’s mantle; Estimating mantle and bulk Earth composition; The Earth’s core and its composition; Mantle geochemical reservoirs; The crust; Generation and crystallization of magmas; Geochemical discrimination of paleo-tectonic settings.

The Crust-Hydrosphere-Atmosphere System:
The present atmosphere; Evolution of the Earth's atmosphere over geologic time; Air pollution - processes and consequences; The hydrosphere; Evolution of the oceans over geologic time; Global biogeochemical cycles.

Organic Geochemistry:
Organic matter in natural waters and soils; Chemical properties of organic molecules; Sedimentary organic matter and coal and oil formation; Isotope composition of hydrocarbons.

Suggested Readings :

  1. White, M., 2013, Geochemistry, Wiley Publication.
  2. Walther, J., 2009, Essentials of Geochemistry (2nd Edition), Jones and Bartlett Learning.
  3. McSween, H. Y., Richardson, S. M., and Uhle, M., 2003, Geochemistry Pathways and Processes (2nd Edition), Columbia University Press.
  4. Faure, G., 2012, Inorganic Geochemistry - Principles and Applications (3rd Edition), Wiley Publications.
  5. Misra, K. C., 2012, Introduction to Geochemistry - Principles and Applications, Wiley-Blackwell Publications.

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