Carbon (1s) NEXAFS spectroscopy of biogeochemically relevant reference organic compounds

Dawit Solomon*, Johannes Lehmann, James Kinyangi, Biqing Liang, Karen Heymann, Lena Dathe, Kelly Hanley, Sue Wirick, Chris Jacobsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Natural organic matter (NOM) is a highly active component of soils and sediments, and plays an important role in global C cycling. However, NOM has defied molecular-level structural characterization, owing to variations along the decomposition continuum and its existence as highly functionalized polyelectrolytes. We conducted a comprehensive systematic overview of spectral signatures and peak positions of major organic molecules that occur as part ofNOM using near-edge x-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopy. The spectra of carbohydrates and amino sugars show resonances between 289.10 and 289.59 eV, attributed to 1s-3p/σ* transitions of O-alkyl (C-OH) moieties. They also exhibited distinct peaks between 288.42 and 288.74 eV, representing C 1s-πC=O transition from COOH functionalities. Amino acids produced a strong signal around 288.70 eV, which can be identified as a C 1S-π* C=O transition of carboxyl/carbonyl (COOH/ COO-) structures. Spectral features near 285.29 eV were ascribed to C 1s-π* C=C transition of ring structure of aromatic amino acids, while spectra between 287.14 and 287.86 eV were attributed to C 1s-π*C-H and C 1s-σ*c-H/3P Rydberg-like excitations from CH and CH2 groups. Phenols and benzoquinone produced strong resonances between 285.08 and 285.37 eV, attributed to the πz.ast; orbital of C (C 1s-π*c=c) atoms connected to either C or H (C-H) in the aromatic ring. The next higher excitation common to both phenols and quinone appeared between 286.05 and 286.35 eV, and could be associated with C ls-π*c=c transitions of aromatic C bonded to O atom in phenols, and to C 1s-π*c=0 transitions from aromatic C connected to O atom (C-OH) in phenols or to a C=O in p-benzoquinone and some phenols with carbonyl structures, respectively. Nucleobases exhibited complex spectral features with pronounced resonances between 286.02 and 286.84 eV and between 288.01 and 288.70 eV. Molecular markers for black C (benzenecarboxylic acid and biphenyl4,4'-dicarboxylic acid) exhibit sharp absorption bands between 285.01 and at 285.43 eV, possibly from C 1S-π*C=c. transition characteristic of C-H sites or unsaturated C (C=C) on aromatic ring structures. These aromatic carboxylic acids also exhibit broad peaks between 288.35 and 288.48 eV, reflecting C 1s-π*c=o transition of carboxyl functional groups bonded to unsaturated C. This investigation provides a more comprehensive NEXAFS spectral library of biogeochemically relevant organic C compounds. The spectra of these reference organic compounds reveal distinct spectral features and peak positions at the C K-edge that are characteristic of the molecular orbitals bonding C atoms. Detailed structural information can be derived from these distinctive spectral features that could be used to build robust peak assignment criteria to exploit the chemical sensitivity ofNEXAFS spectroscopy for in situ molecular-level spatial investigation and fingerprinting of complex organic C compounds in environmental samples

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1817-1830
Number of pages14
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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