Recently, the prebiotic amino acid glycine has been found associated with natural jarosite samples from locations around the world. Since the discovery of jarosite on Mars, extensive research focuses on linking this mineral group with possible detection of biosignatures in the geologic record on Earth and Mars. Multiple analytical methods, including extraction and mass spectrometry techniques, have identified glycine and other biomolecules in jarosite samples. The jarosite end members jarosite (sensu stricto-potassium jarosite), natrojarosite (sodium jarosite), and ammoniojarosite (ammonium jarosite) have different thermodynamic stabilities, decompose at different rates, and have potentially different susceptibilities to substitution. The relationship between the thermodynamic stability of the jarosite end members and the effect that glycine has on the thermal decomposition behavior of each end member was investigated using thermal gravimetric analysis. Introducing glycine into the synthesis procedure (75 ppm) of the potassium, sodium, and ammonium jarosite end member has elucidated the effects that glycine has on the thermal stability of the mineral group. Potassium jarosite appears to be the least susceptible to the effects of glycine, with the sodium and ammonium end members showing marked changes in thermal decomposition behavior and decomposition rates. These results suggest that the sodium and ammonium jarosites are more suitable targets for identifying signs of prebiotic or biotic activity on Mars and Earth than the potassium jarosites. These results have implications for current in situ investigations of the martian surface and future sample return missions.
Planetary and Space Science – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2009
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