Friedhelm von Blanckenburg explores the Geochemistry of the Earth's surface by inorganic isotope geochemical and mass spectrometric methods.
Previously he has dealt with deciphering the processes in the interior of the Earth, such as the origin of granitic rocks in collisional mountains. This led him to propose the so-called "slab breakoff" hypothesis. He then turned his isotopic tools onto ocean sediments to determine the transfer of erosion products into the oceans.
Today he deals with the quantification of processes at the Earth's surface. As one main tool he uses cosmogenic nuclides. These rare clocks of the Earth surface allow the quantitative, physically-based analysis of landscape development and its interaction with the environment and with tectonic processes. A focus of his work is set on the mechanisms of pre-anthropogenic erosion processes. He developed approaches for measurements of „paleo-erosion and weathering rates“. Cosmogenic nuclides in terrestrial and ocean sediment time series disclose the magnitude of variations in late-Cenozoic and glacial-interglacial erosion and weathering rates.
The second area of research is the high-precision determination by mass spectrometric methods of the small shifts in the relative abundances of the isotopes of metal and metalloid elements such as Li, Mg, Si and Sr. With his group he uses these new systems to track the massive biogeochemical fluxes at the Earth's surface – and follow them from the rock to soils and into plants, and from there into river water and eventually into the oceans. These isotopic systems fractionate if they form a) secondary minerals in weathering; b) these elements are taken up by plants. Emphasis is on 1) field studies in the so-called "critical zone"; 2) the determination of the isotopic fractionation factors in inorganic and biological systems; 3) the development of suitable methods for in situ determination of isotope ratios at the micro scale by means of femtosecond laser ablation; 4) the creation of mass balance models that simulate these processes.
Towards knowledge transfer he explores the potential contributions of metal isotope methods to biomedicine. He was the first to demonstrate that the isotope ratios of iron evolve along the human food chain.
Watch Friedhelm von Blanckenburgs Geochemistry movie "The Earth's Surface and the Isotope Merry-Go-Round of the Chemical Elements"
Publications – Researcher ID: K-4711-2013