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The chemistry of environmental interfaces such as oxide and carbonate surfaces under ambient conditions of temperature and relative humidity is of great interest from many perspectives including heterogeneous atmospheric chemistry, heterogeneous catalysis, photocatalysis, sensor technology, corrosion science, and cultural heritage science. As discussed here, adsorbed water plays important roles in the reaction chemistry of oxide and carbonate surfaces with indoor and outdoor pollutant molecules including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, ozone and organic acids. Mechanisms of these reactions are just beginning to be unraveled and found to depend on the details of the reaction mechanism as well as the coverage of water on the surface. As discussed here, adsorbed water can: (i) alter reaction pathways and surface speciation relative to the dry surface; (ii) hydrolyze reactants, intermediates and products; (iii) enhance surface reactivity by providing a medium for ionic dissociation; (iv) inhibit surface reactivity by blocking sites; (v) solvate ions; (vi) enhance ion mobility on surfaces and (vii) alter the stability of surface adsorbed species. In this feature article, drawing on research that has been going on for over a decade on the reaction chemistry of oxide and carbonate surfaces under ambient conditions of temperature and relative humidity, a number of specific examples showing the multi-faceted roles of adsorbed water are presented.
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