Interfacial reactions drive all elemental cycling on Earth and play pivotal roles in human activities such as agriculture, water purification, energy production and storage, environmental contaminant remediation, and nuclear waste repository management. The onset of the 21st century marked the beginning of a more detailed understanding of mineral aqueous interfaces enabled by advances in techniques that use tunable high-flux focused ultrafast laser and X-ray sources to provide near-atomic measurement resolution, as well as by nanofabrication approaches that enable transmission electron microscopy in a liquid cell. This leap into atomic- and nanometer-scale measurements has uncovered scale-dependent phenomena whose reaction thermodynamics, kinetics, and pathways deviate from previous observations made on larger systems. A second key advance is new experimental evidence for what scientists hypothesized but could not test previously, namely, interfacial chemical reactions are frequently driven by "anomalies" or "non-idealities" such as defects, nanoconfinement, and other nontypical chemical structures. Third, progress in computational chemistry has yielded new insights that allow a move beyond simple schematics, leading to a molecular model of these complex interfaces. In combination with surface-sensitive measurements, we have gained knowledge of the interfacial structure and dynamics, including the underlying solid surface and the immediately adjacent water and aqueous ions, enabling a better definition of what constitutes the oxide- and silicate-water interfaces. This critical review discusses how science progresses from understanding ideal solid-water interfaces to more realistic systems, focusing on accomplishments in the last 20 years and identifying challenges and future opportunities for the community to address. We anticipate that the next 20 years will focus on understanding and predicting dynamic transient and reactive structures over greater spatial and temporal ranges as well as systems of greater structural and chemical complexity. Closer collaborations of theoretical and experimental experts across disciplines will continue to be critical to achieving this great aspiration.
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