Welcome to the Molecular Geochemistry Laboratory

If chemistry is the central science, then geochemistry is the central science as applied to understanding the natural world around us.

Geochemists seek to answer questions relating to the evolution of life on Earth and how metalloenzymes may have evolved, the chemistry of the oceans and how they are affected by global warming, the interplay between flora, fauna and the environment in chemical terms, how pollutants interact with soils and minerals, and how radioactive waste can be securely stored for millennia. We do this by connecting the very big — mountains — with the very small — atoms and molecules, and the very fast — fundamental reactions — with the often very slow — weathering

If you share our passion for understanding and explaining how the world works — join us! To find out about opportunities in our laboratory, contact one of the group leaders: Erik BjörnJean-François BoilyMichael Holmboe, C. André Ohlin, Andrey Shchukarev, and Staffan Sjöberg.

2 new positions in the Boily group

PhD and postdoc positions on Rust in Ice!
It’s a Molecular Geochemistry project!
Sweden’s a great place to do a PhD (4-5 years) and postdoc (2 years)!
Fantastic infrastructure (www.kbc.se) and great working conditions!
Links to the positions:
Application deadline is February 28.

3 new publications for the Boily group

These are from collaborations with:

1. Jonatan Klaminder (Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University)

Bottone A, Boily J.-F., Shchukarev A., Anderson P., Klaminder 2021. Sodium hypochlorite as an oxidising agent for removal of soil organic matter before micro plastics analyses. J. Env. Qual. 

2. Solomon Tesfalidet (Chemistry, Umeå University)

Haziri V, Phal S, Boily J.-F., Berisha A., Tesfalidet S. 2022. Oxygen interactions with covalently grafted 2D manometric carboxyphenyl thin films – An experimental and DFT study.  Coatings. 49.

3. Khalil Hanna (École National Supérieure de Chimie de Rennes, France)

Luo T., Xu J., Cheng W., Zhou L., Marsac R., Wu F., Boily J.-F., Hanna K. 2021 Interactions of anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drugs at mineral surfaces can control environmental fate and transport. Environ. Sci. Technol.



New grants in Fall 2021!

Erik Björn: 3.6 Mkr (Swedish Research Council) for a project on  methyl mercury in biofilms
Erik Björn: 3.0 Mkr (Formas) for a project on  methyl mercury in the sea
Jean-François Boily, Madeleine Ramstedt, Andrey Shchukarev: 10.0 Mkr (Kempe Foundation + Faculty of Science and Technology) for the acquisition of a new X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer
Jean-François Boily: 900 kkr (Kempe) for a postdoctoral project on iron in ice.
Merve Yesilbas: 4 Mkr (Swedish Research Council) for a project on cryosalts on planet Mars

Polyoxoniobates as molecular building blocks in thin films

Polyoxoniobates as molecular building blocks in thin films

in Dalton Transactions, 2021, 50, 16030-16038. Link

Mark Rambaran, András Gorzsás, Michael Holmboe, CA Ohlin.

Abstract: Niobium oxide thin films have been prepared by spin-coating aqueous solutions of tetramethylammonium salts of the isostructural polyoxometalate clusters [Nb10O28]6- , [TiNb10O28]7- and [Ti2Nb8O28]8- onto silicon wafers, and annealing them. The [Nb10O28]6- cluster yields films of Nb2O5 in the orthorhombic and monoclinic crystal phases when annealed at 800 °C and 1,000 °C, respectively, whereas the [TiNb10O28]7-  and [Ti2Nb8O28]8- clusters yield the monoclinic crystal phases of Ti2Nb12O29 and TiNb2O7 (titanium-niobium oxides) in different ratios. We also demonstrate a protocol for depositing successive layers of metal oxide films. Finally, we explore factors affecting the roughness of the films.

Computational exploration of substitution of polyoxometalates for identification of synthetic targets

Computational exploration of heterometal substitution into the decaniobate framework, [Nb10O28]6-

in Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys.202123, 10402-10408. Link

C. A. Ohlin

Abstract: The factors governing the substitution of group 4B–12B metals into the decaniobate framework are explored using density functional theory in order to ascertain whether (1) recently isolated [MNb9O28]x− clusters are kinetic or thermodynamic products, (2) density functional theory is a sufficient level of theory to accurately predict substitution patterns in polyoxometalates where ion pairing and other effects may operate, and (3) it can be used to guide future synthetic efforts. Computations using restricted, unrestricted and open-shell density functional theory at PBE0/def2-tzvp were found to correctly predict substitution patterns in known clusters, and were subsequently used to calculate the relative energies of a large series of [MNb9O28]x− clusters, to reveal trends and suggest potential synthetic approaches. OPBE/def2-tzvp correctly predicted favoured spin states of known substituted decametalates.

Polyoxometalates and Alzheimers

Polyoxometalates as Effective Nano-inhibitors of Amyloid Aggregation of Pro-inflammatory S100A9 Protein Involved in Neurodegenerative Diseases

in ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces202113(23), 26721-26734.

Chaudhary, Himanshi; Iaschishyn, Igor A.; Romanova, Nina V.; Rambaran, Mark A.; Musteikyte, Greta; Smirnovas, Vytautas; Holmboe, MichaelOhlin, C. André; Svedruzić, Zelsko M.; Morozova-Roche, Ludmilla A.

Abstract: Pro-inflammatory and amyloidogenic S100A9 protein is central to the amyloid-neuroinflammatory cascade in neurodegenerative diseases. Polyoxometalates (POMs) constitute a diverse group of nanomaterials, which showed potency in amyloid inhibition. Here, we have demonstrated that two selected nanosized niobium POMs, Nb10 and TiNb9, can act as potent inhibitors of S100A9 amyloid assembly. Kinetics analysis based on ThT fluorescence experiments showed that addition of either Nb10 or TiNb9 reduces the S100A9 amyloid formation rate and amyloid quantity. Atomic force microscopy imaging demonstrated the complete absence of long S100A9 amyloid fibrils at increasing concentrations of either POM and the presence of only round-shaped and slightly elongated aggregates. Molecular dynamics simulation revealed that both Nb10 and TiNb9 bind to native S100A9 homo-dimer by forming ionic interactions with the positively charged Lys residue-rich patches on the protein surface. The acrylamide quenching of intrinsic fluorescence showed that POM binding does not perturb the Trp 88 environment. The far and near UV circular dichroism revealed no large-scale perturbation of S100A9 secondary and tertiary structures upon POM binding. These indicate that POM binding involves only local conformational changes in the binding sites. By using intrinsic and 8-anilino-1-naphthalene sulfonate fluorescence titration experiments, we found that POMs bind to S100A9 with a Kd of ca. 2.5 μM. We suggest that the region, including Lys 50 to Lys 54 and characterized by high amyloid propensity, could be the key sequences involved in S1009 amyloid self-assembly. The inhibition and complete hindering of S100A9 amyloid pathways may be used in the therapeutic applications targeting the amyloid-neuroinflammatory cascade in neurodegenerative diseases.

Paper published detailing the mineral characteristics of Holocene lake sediments

Based on a plethora of experiments and advanced geochemical analysis techniques, Hussein Kanbar in the Holmboe group (Department of Chemistry/UMU), in a collaboration with PhD student Fredrik Olajos and Professor Göran Englund from the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences/UMU, has published a paper in the Journal of Soils and Sediments, detailing the mineral and geochemical characteristics of Holocene lake sediments from the Hotagen lake in west Sweden (Jämtland). Read more here:

Kanbar, H.J., Tran Le, T., Olajos, F. et al. Tracking mineral and geochemical characteristics of Holocene lake sediments: the case of Hotagen, west-central Sweden. J Soils Sediments (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-021-03012-y

CLOSED: The Holmboe group is offering 1 PhD student position and 1 postdoc fellowship!

Our planet has more organic carbon in its fragile soil layers than all the carbon on land and atmosphere combined. The Holmboe group is now hiring a PhD student (4 year minimum) and offering one postdoc fellowship (2 years) for two separate but similar projects focusing on the molecular interactions between natural organic molecules and mineral surfaces.

In order to focus on the molecular scale, the research will utilize various experimental methods and molecular dynamics simulations  (extracting for instance free energy profiles as shown below), and why not also virtual reality!


To apply for the PhD position, please visit this link.

To apply for the postdoc fellowship financed by the Kempe Foundations, please visit this link.