Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso

Trace Elements

  • Nicholas ArndtEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_1598-3


On Earth a trace element is an element present in low concentrations in rocks, waters, or biological materials. A concentration of 100 parts per million (ppm) is commonly accepted as an upper limit. In geochemistry, trace elements are distinguished from major elements. The importance of trace elements is their lack of mutual interaction, which is the basis of Henry’s law of dilute solution. Major elements are the essential constituents of the crystal framework of minerals and rocks; trace elements substitute for or replace the major elements. The concentrations of trace elements in rocks and minerals vary from several thousands of parts per million for elements like strontium and nickel to a few parts per billion for elements like platinum. In the biological sciences, a trace element is defined as an element that is present in low concentrations but is essential for the proper growth, development, and physiology of an organism. Trace elements are useful for monitoring the...


Climate Change Bioorganic Chemistry Major Element Biological Material Biological Science 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Maison des GéosciencesLGCA, Université J. FourierSt-Martin d’HèresFrance