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Title: Alternative Energy: Production of H{sub 2} by Radiolysis of Water in the Rocky Cores of Icy Bodies

Abstract

We applied a model of radiolysis in earthly rock–water mixtures to several known or suspected ocean worlds: Enceladus, Ceres, Europa, Titania, Oberon, Pluto, and Charon. In this model, radiation emitted by the long-lived radionuclides ({sup 40}K, {sup 232}Th, {sup 235}U, and {sup 238}U) contained in the ordinary chondrite-like rocks is partly absorbed by the water permeating the material of each body’s core. The physical and chemical processes that follow release molecular hydrogen (H{sub 2}), which is a molecule of astrobiological interest. We compared the calculated production of H{sub 2} by radiolysis in each body’s core to published estimates of production by serpentinization. This study presents production calculations over 4.5 Gyr for several values of rock porosity. We found that radiolysis can produce H{sub 2} quantities equivalent to a few percent of what is estimated from serpentinization. Higher porosity, which is unlikely at the scale of a body’s entire core but possible just under the seafloor, can increase radiolytic production by almost an order of magnitude. The products of water radiolysis also include several oxidants, allowing for production of life-sustaining sulfates. Though previously unrecognized in this capacity, radiolysis in an ocean world’s outer core could be a fundamental agent in generatingmore » the chemical energy that could support life.« less

Authors:
;  [1]; ;  [2]
  1. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX (United States)
  2. Southwest Research Institute, Space Science and Engineering Division, San Antonio, TX (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22654488
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal Letters; Journal Volume: 840; Journal Issue: 1; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; CAPACITY; COMPUTERIZED SIMULATION; EARTH PLANET; EMISSION; HYDROGEN; MOLECULES; PLUTO PLANET; POROSITY; POTASSIUM 40; RADIOLYSIS; ROCKS; SATELLITES; THORIUM 232; TITANIUM OXIDES; URANIUM 235; URANIUM 238; WATER

Citation Formats

Bouquet, Alexis, Waite, J. Hunter, Glein, Christopher R., and Wyrick, Danielle. Alternative Energy: Production of H{sub 2} by Radiolysis of Water in the Rocky Cores of Icy Bodies. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/AA6D56.
Bouquet, Alexis, Waite, J. Hunter, Glein, Christopher R., & Wyrick, Danielle. Alternative Energy: Production of H{sub 2} by Radiolysis of Water in the Rocky Cores of Icy Bodies. United States. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/AA6D56.
Bouquet, Alexis, Waite, J. Hunter, Glein, Christopher R., and Wyrick, Danielle. Mon . "Alternative Energy: Production of H{sub 2} by Radiolysis of Water in the Rocky Cores of Icy Bodies". United States. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/AA6D56.
@article{osti_22654488,
title = {Alternative Energy: Production of H{sub 2} by Radiolysis of Water in the Rocky Cores of Icy Bodies},
author = {Bouquet, Alexis and Waite, J. Hunter and Glein, Christopher R. and Wyrick, Danielle},
abstractNote = {We applied a model of radiolysis in earthly rock–water mixtures to several known or suspected ocean worlds: Enceladus, Ceres, Europa, Titania, Oberon, Pluto, and Charon. In this model, radiation emitted by the long-lived radionuclides ({sup 40}K, {sup 232}Th, {sup 235}U, and {sup 238}U) contained in the ordinary chondrite-like rocks is partly absorbed by the water permeating the material of each body’s core. The physical and chemical processes that follow release molecular hydrogen (H{sub 2}), which is a molecule of astrobiological interest. We compared the calculated production of H{sub 2} by radiolysis in each body’s core to published estimates of production by serpentinization. This study presents production calculations over 4.5 Gyr for several values of rock porosity. We found that radiolysis can produce H{sub 2} quantities equivalent to a few percent of what is estimated from serpentinization. Higher porosity, which is unlikely at the scale of a body’s entire core but possible just under the seafloor, can increase radiolytic production by almost an order of magnitude. The products of water radiolysis also include several oxidants, allowing for production of life-sustaining sulfates. Though previously unrecognized in this capacity, radiolysis in an ocean world’s outer core could be a fundamental agent in generating the chemical energy that could support life.},
doi = {10.3847/2041-8213/AA6D56},
journal = {Astrophysical Journal Letters},
number = 1,
volume = 840,
place = {United States},
year = {Mon May 01 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Mon May 01 00:00:00 EDT 2017}
}