Thomas B. Hofstetter is a senior scientist at Eawag's Department of Environmental Chemistry and leads the Environmental Chemistry Stable Isotope Lab. His primary interest is to understand how degradation and formation reactions organic pollutants work.
Even in Environmental Chemistry "little things can make a big difference". Our preferred level of study is therefore the molecular scale. The know-how obtained from talking to molecules, atoms, and a few sub-atomic particles enables us assess quantitatively the numerous processes that ultimately determine the fate of organic pollutants behave in aquatic environments. Thomas Hofstetter and his research group apply a variety of approaches to achieve their research goals.
- We study of reaction mechanisms in (laboratory) model systems for enzyme- and mineral-catalyzed redox reactions, water disinfection processes, and photochemical transformations.
- With compound-specific stable isotope analysis, we have an excellent tool at hand for studying (bio)chemical reactions. Tiny variations of isotope ratios found at natural isotopic abundances reveal, on the one hand, the origin of an element or molecule. On the other hand, the systematic variation of isotope ratios reflect isotope effects of chemical reactions and physical processes and are, therefore powerful proxies for reactive processes on very different time scales.
- Finally, we aim at understanding the biogeochemical context, in which reactions of organic and inorganic pollutants happen. To this end, we study the redox properties of iron-bearing minerals, specifically, phyllosilicates and iron oxides from their availability as terminal electron acceptors to the quantification of fundamental redox parameters.
None of these goals would be achieved without the fruitful collaboration with and advice from numerous colleagues and friends of good (environmental and chemical) sciences.