Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Origin of massive methane reservoir identified

21.08.2019

New research from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) published Aug. 19, 2019, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science provides evidence of the formation and abundance of abiotic methane--methane formed by chemical reactions that don't involve organic matter--on Earth and shows how the gases could have a similar origin on other planets and moons, even those no longer home to liquid water. Researchers had long noticed methane released from deep-sea vents. But while the gas is plentiful in the atmosphere where it's produced by living things, the source of methane at the seafloor was a mystery.

"Identifying an abiotic source of deep-sea methane has been a problem that we've been wrestling with for many years," says Jeffrey Seewald a senior scientist at WHOI who studies geochemistry in hydrothermal systems and is one of the study's authors.

Vent Fluid

The manipulator arm of the remotely operated vehicle Jason samples a stream of fluid from a hydrothermal vent. The fluid contains gases that are in liquid form because of the high pressure of the deep ocean.

Credit: Photo by Chris German/WHOI/NSF, NASA/ROV Jason 2012, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Of 160 rock samples analyzed from across the world's oceans, almost all contained pockets of methane. These oceanic deposits make up a reservoir exceeding the amount of methane in Earth's atmosphere before industrialization, estimates Frieder Klein, a marine geologist at WHOI and lead author of the study.

"We were totally surprised to find this massive pool of abiotic methane in the oceanic crust and mantle," Klein says.

The scientists analyzed rocks using Raman spectroscopy, a laser-based microscope that allows them to identify fluids and minerals in a thin slice of rock. Nearly every sample contained an assemblage of minerals and gases that form when seawater, moving through the deep oceanic crust, is trapped in magma-hot olivine.

As the mineral cools, the water trapped inside undergoes a chemical reaction, a process called serpentinization that forms hydrogen and methane. The authors demonstrate that in otherwise inhospitable environments, just two ingredients?--water and olivine?--can form methane.

"Here's a source of chemical energy that's being created by geology," says Seewald.

On Earth, deep-sea methane might have played a critical role for the evolution of primitive organisms living at hydrothermal vents on the seafloor, Seewald explains. And elsewhere in the solar system, on places like Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's Enceladus, methane produced through the same process could provide an energy source for basic life forms.

###

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the oceans' role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit http://www.whoi.edu.

Media Contact

WHOI Media Office
media@whoi.edu
508-289-3340

 @WHOImedia

http://www.whoi.edu 

WHOI Media Office | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.whoi.edu/press-room/news-release/origin-of-massive-methane-reservoir-identified/
http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1907871116

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Low sea-ice cover in the Arctic
13.09.2019 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht A precise chemical fingerprint of the Amazon
12.09.2019 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

Im Focus: Graphene sets the stage for the next generation of THz astronomy detectors

Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology have demonstrated a detector made from graphene that could revolutionize the sensors used in next-generation space telescopes. The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

Beyond superconductors, there are few materials that can fulfill the requirements needed for making ultra-sensitive and fast terahertz (THz) detectors for...

Im Focus: Physicists from Stuttgart prove the existence of a supersolid state of matte

A supersolid is a state of matter that can be described in simplified terms as being solid and liquid at the same time. In recent years, extensive efforts have been devoted to the detection of this exotic quantum matter. A research team led by Tilman Pfau and Tim Langen at the 5th Institute of Physics of the University of Stuttgart has succeeded in proving experimentally that the long-sought supersolid state of matter exists. The researchers report their results in Nature magazine.

In our everyday lives, we are familiar with matter existing in three different states: solid, liquid, or gas. However, if matter is cooled down to extremely...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Too much of a good thing: overactive immune cells trigger inflammation

16.09.2019 | Life Sciences

Scientists create a nanomaterial that is both twisted and untwisted at the same time

16.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

Researchers have identified areas of the retina that change in mild Alzheimer's disease

16.09.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>