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 Colorectal cancer risk factors decrypted
13.07.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

nachricht Algae Have Land Genes
13.07.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Research finds new molecular structures in boron-based nanoclusters

13.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Algae Have Land Genes

13.07.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>