Cr, Se, U, Sb, and Te are toxic, redox-active elements that are more mobile and environmentally problematic in their oxidized forms, and less mobile and bioavailable in their reduced forms. This chapter reviews the development of Cr, Se, U, Sb, and Te isotope ratio measurements as new indicators of redox reactions and contaminant migration. Reliable analytical methods exist, but are still evolving. Understanding of isotopic fractionation induced by various (bio)geochemical processes has been explored in dozens of publications, yet is far from complete: Reduction reactions, the major driver of isotopic variation, have been relatively well studied. However, the magnitude of fractionation is variable and the systematics of that variation are still being explored. Isotopic fractionation induced by oxidation reactions is not well understood. Non-redox reactions, which involve smaller changes in bonding of these elements, tend to induce less isotopic fractionation, but can nonetheless cause significant isotopic shifts. Field applications of Cr, Se, U isotope ratios have demonstrated that they are useful as indicators of reduction in natural systems. A few studies suggest they are also useful as indicators of oxidation and contaminant sources. The physical and chemical complexity of groundwater systems hinders accurate quantitative interpretation of Cr, Se, U isotope data using simple models. Numerical models have been developed that capture the behavior of complex, coupled systems and enable the most effective extraction of information from field data sets.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)