Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sopping salts could reveal history of water on Mars

07.10.2004


Epsom-like salts believed to be common on Mars may be a major source of water there, say geologists at Indiana University Bloomington and Los Alamos National Laboratory. In their report in this week’s Nature, the scientists also speculate that the salts will provide a chemical record of water on the Red Planet.



"The Mars Odyssey orbiter recently showed that there may be as much as 10 percent water hidden in the Martian near-surface," said David Bish, Haydn Murray Chair of Applied Clay Mineralogy at IU and a co-author of the report. "We were able to show that under Mars-like conditions, magnesium sulfate salts can contain a great deal of water. Our findings also suggest that the kinds of sulfates we find on Mars could give us a lot of insight into the history of water and mineral formation there."

The scientists learned that magnesium sulfate salts are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature, pressure and humidity. For that reason, the scientists argue that information contained in the salts could be easily lost if samples were brought back to Earth for study. Instead, they say, future missions to Mars should measure the properties of the salts on site.


The existence of magnesium sulfate salts on Mars was first suggested by the 1976 Viking missions and has since been confirmed by the Mars Exploration Rover as well as the Odyssey and Pathfinder missions. One way to quash remaining doubts that the salts are really there, however, would be to equip a Martian rover with an X-ray diffractometer -- an instrument that analyzes the properties of crystals. Coincidentally, such a device could also be used to examine magnesium sulfate salts on Mars. Bish and collaborators from NASA Ames and Los Alamos are currently developing a miniaturized X-ray diffractometer with NASA funding.

Some magnesium sulfate salts trap more water than others. Epsomite, for example, has the most water in it -- 51 percent by weight -- while hexahydrite and kieserite have less (47 percent and 13 percent by weight, respectively). The proportion of water to magnesium sulfate affects the chemical properties of the different salts.

While varying temperature, pressure and humidity inside an experimental chamber, the scientists studied how the different magnesium salts transform over time.

When temperature and pressure inside an experimental chamber were lowered to Mars-like conditions (minus 64 degrees Fahrenheit, and less than 1 percent of Earth’s normal surface pressure), crystals of epsomite initially transformed into slightly less watery hexahydrite crystals and then became disorganized, but they still contained water. In contrast, "kieserite doesn’t let go of its water very easily, even at very low pressure and humidity or at elevated temperatures," Bish said.

But when the scientists increased humidity inside the experimental chamber, they found that kieserite transformed into hexahydrite and then epsomite, which have more water.

Bish and his Los Alamos colleagues believe that the proportion and distribution of hexahydrite, kieserite and other magnesium sulfate salts on Mars may hold a record of past changes in climate and whether or not water once flowed there. However, kieserite might not be preserved through cycles of wetting and drying because of its ability to rehydrate to hexahydrite and epsomite, which can then become amorphous through drying.

Los Alamos National Laboratory geologists David Vaniman, Steve Chipera, Claire Fialips, William Carey and William Feldman also contributed to the study. It was funded by LANL Directed Research and Development Funding and NASA Mars Fundamental Research Program grants.

David Bricker | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.indiana.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>