Biosignature storage in sulfate minerals- synthetic and natural investigations of the jarosite group minerals

Julia Michelle Kotler, The University of Montana


The discovery of jarosite on Mars in 2004 generated increased interest in the properties of the mineral related to the search for life on other planets. Several studies indicate that the formation of jarosite can be linked to biological activity on Earth and biomolecules such as amino acids have been found associated with terrestrial jarosite samples. A series of natural and synthetic investigations using different jarosite end-members has been conducted and is presented in this dissertation to investigate the possibility that jarosite can store biosignatures. Natural samples were analyzed by X-ray diffraction, elemental carbon analysis and laser-desorption Fourier transform mass spectrometry (LD-FTMS) and were found to contain the amino acid glycine. Synthetic experiments were conducted in which the different end-members were synthesized in the presence of glycine as well as the amino acid alanine and the amino acid breakdown product methylamine. These samples were analyzed by X-ray diffraction, neutron diffraction, LD-FTMS and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) techniques. Results of these experiments show that the detection of the biosignature and the effect that biomolecule has on the jarosite minerals is dependent on the end-member and indicate that the jarosite minerals are an excellent target for detecting potential signs of past life on other planets.


© Copyright 2009 Julia Michelle Kotler