So where does their iron come from? New research published by "Nature Geoscience" points to a source on the seafloor: minute particles (called nanoparticles) of pyrite, or fool’s gold, from hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean.
Scientists already knew the vents’ cloudy plumes emitted from the earth’s interior include pyrite particles, but they thought they were solids that settled back on the ocean bottom. A University of Delaware team has shown that the vents emit a significant amount of pyrite as nanoparticles, which have a diameter that is one thousand times smaller than that of a human hair. Because the nanoparticles are so small, they are dispersed into the ocean rather than falling to the bottom.
Barbara Ransom, program director in the agency that funded the research, the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences, called the discovery "very exciting."
"These particles have long residence times in the ocean and can travel long distances from their sources, forming a potentially important food source for life in the deep sea," she said.
UD Oceanography Professor and project collaborator George Luther explained the importance of the pyrite’s lengthy residence times, or how long they exist in their current form. He said the pyrite, which consists of iron and sulfur as iron disulfide, does not rapidly react with oxygen in the seawater to form oxidized iron, or "rust," allowing it to stay intact and move throughout the ocean better than other forms of iron.
"As pyrite travels from the vents to the ocean interior and toward the surface ocean, it oxidizes gradually to release iron, which becomes available in areas where iron is depleted so that organisms can assimilate it, then grow," Luther said. "It’s an ongoing iron supplement for the ocean much as Geritol or multivitamins are for humans."
Growth of the bacteria and tiny plants, known as phytoplankton, can affect atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Much of the research for the paper, which the journal published on its website on May 8, was completed by alumnus Mustafa Yücel while working on his doctorate with Luther at UD.
The project also received support from Delaware EPSCoR. It involved scientific cruises to the South Pacific and East Pacific Rise using the manned deep-sea submersible Alvin and the remotely operated vehicle Jason, both operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
About the UD research team
George Luther is Maxwell P. and Mildred H. Harrington Professor of Oceanography; Mustafa Yücel earned his doctorate in oceanography from UD in fall 2009 and now holds a post-doctorate position at Benthic Ecogeochemistry Laboratory of France’s Pierre and Marie Curie University (Paris 6) at Banyuls Marine Station; Clara Chan is an assistant professor of geological sciences; and Amy Gartman is an oceanography doctoral student studying with Luther.
Nature Geoscience abstract: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ngeo1148.html
Andrea Boyle | Newswise Science News
Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute
Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine