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Clay mineral formation under oxidized conditions and implications for paleoenvironments and organic preservation on Mars

Gainey, Seth R. and Hausrath, Elisabeth M. and Adcock, Christopher T. and Tschauner, Oliver and Hurowitz, Joel A. and Ehlmann, Bethany L. and Xiao, Yuming and Bartlett, Courtney L. (2017) Clay mineral formation under oxidized conditions and implications for paleoenvironments and organic preservation on Mars. Nature Communications, 8 . Art. No. 1230. ISSN 2041-1723. PMCID PMC5663933. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-01235-7.

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Clay mineral-bearing locations have been targeted for martian exploration as potentially habitable environments and as possible repositories for the preservation of organic matter. Although organic matter has been detected at Gale Crater, Mars, its concentrations are lower than expected from meteoritic and indigenous igneous and hydrothermal reduced carbon. We conducted synthesis experiments motivated by the hypothesis that some clay mineral formation may have occurred under oxidized conditions conducive to the destruction of organics. Previous work has suggested that anoxic and/or reducing conditions are needed to synthesize the Fe-rich clay mineral nontronite at low temperatures. In contrast, our experiments demonstrated the rapid formation of Fe-rich clay minerals of variable crystallinity from aqueous Fe^(3+) with small amounts of aqueous Mg^(2+). Our results suggest that Fe-rich clay minerals such as nontronite can form rapidly under oxidized conditions, which could help explain low concentrations of organics within some smectite-containing rocks or sediments on Mars.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Tschauner, Oliver0000-0003-3364-8906
Hurowitz, Joel A.0000-0002-5857-8652
Ehlmann, Bethany L.0000-0002-2745-3240
Additional Information:© 2017 The Author(s). This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit Received: 31 July 2015; Accepted: 01 September 2017; Published online: 01 November 2017. This material is based upon work supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under Grant No. NNX10AN23H issued through the NASA Training Grant: National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program (Space Grant) and the Mars Fundamental Research Program Grant No. NNX12AH96G. Portions of this work were performed at HPCAT (Sector 16), Advanced Photon Source (APS), Argonne National Laboratory. HPCAT operation is supported by DOE-NNSA under Award No. DE-NA0001974, with partial instrumentation funding by NSF. The Advanced Photon Source is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357. Part of this work was conducted at beamline 12.2.2, Advanced Light Source (ALS). ALS is a DOE Office of Science User Facility under contract no. DE.AC02-05CH11231. Y.X. acknowledges the support of DOE-BES/DMSE under Award DE-FG02-99ER45775. O.T. acknowledges support through DOE Cooperative Agreement #DE-NA0001982 and DESC0005278. We also thank the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’s Graduate and Professional Student Association. The authors thank Michael Steiner, Valerie Tu, Renee Schofield and Angela Garcia for contributions and help in the development of this manuscript. We also thank Minghua Ren for aid in Microprobe analysis and George Rossman, Cedric Pilorget, Jennifer Buz, Michael Thorpe and Lulu Pan for aid in the collection of spectra. Data availability: The authors declare that the data supporting the finding of this study are available within the paper and its supplementary materials, and/or from the corresponding author S.R.G. upon reasonable request. Contributions: S.R.G., E.M.H. and J.A.H.: Conceived the project. S.R.G.: Performed the experimental syntheses, and S.R.G., E.M.H., J.A.H., B.L.E., O.T., C.T.A., Y.X. and C.L.B.: Contributed to the collection and interpretation of analyses of synthesized materials. All authors have contributed to the writing of the manuscript. The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Group:Astronomy Department
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-NA0001974
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-AC02-06CH11357
Department of Energy (DOE)DE.AC02-05CH11231
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-FG02-99ER45775
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-NA0001982
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-SC0005278
PubMed Central ID:PMC5663933
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20171103-085852752
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:82931
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:03 Nov 2017 16:37
Last Modified:21 Mar 2022 17:19

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