Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

As old as the seas

23.04.2003


Leeds scientists are to investigate the birthplace of life – sea water billions of years old – with new high-tech laser equipment, the first of its kind in the UK.



The ancient sea water is found trapped in tiny pockets – called fluid inclusions – within crystals such as emerald and quartz. The oldest known examples are found in the rock 3.8 billion years old – the oldest land on the planet. Although liquid water is believed to have existed on earth over 4 billion years ago, obtaining samples from that time is impossible.

The Leeds scientists are using quartz formed from lava flow under the sea, which hasn’t been affected by geological processes, ensuring the pockets of water remain exactly as they were when the rock was formed. They are analysing rock from 3.8 to 3.2 billion years ago, to see how the sea changed during that time and how that might have affected the first life forms.


Dr David Banks said: “The sea was the birth place of life as we know it, where the first biological molecules and microbes formed. It was a major factor in limiting the levels of oxygen in the earth’s early atmosphere at concentrations much lower than we have today. Understanding its composition at the time the first life on Earth emerged will help us learn more about how the process began and how the first forms of life came about.”

Traditional methods of analysis involve crushing small pieces of the crystal to open the inclusions and dissolving the salts with water before using conventional methods to determine the composition. "The crystals we are analysing contain very few inclusions," said Dr Banks. " These methods couldn’’t be used in our case, as thousands of inclusions need to be tested at once to get a result, and you can mix up different ages of sea water. We needed to look for another way."

The scientists gained funding for specialised equipment – the first in the UK – which uses a laser to ‘drill’ into a single inclusion (normally between one hundredth and one thousandth of a millimeter in diameter). The high temperature then vapourises the sea water, allowing its chemical composition to be analysed in a mass spectrometer. The equipment is called a laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICPMS).

The ICPMS is part of two new £900K laboratories, which also include state-of-the-art equipment for dating geological samples, through their isotopic composition.

Abigail Chard | alfa
Further information:
http://www.leeds.ac.uk/media/current/seawater.htm

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>