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 Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>