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- Observation of methane in the Martian atmosphere has been reported by different detection techniques [1-4]. With more evidence showing extensive water-rock interaction in Martian history [5-7], abiotic formation by Fischer-Tropsch Type (FTT) synthesis during serpentization reactions may be one possible process responsible for methane generation on Mars [8, 9]. While the experimental studies performed to date leave little doubt that chemical reactions exist for the abiotic synthesis of organic compounds by mineral surface-catalyzed reactions [10-12], little is known about the reaction pathways by which CO2 and/or CO are reduced under hydrothermal conditions. Carbon and hydrogen isotope measurements of alkanes have been used as an effective tool to constrain the origin and reaction pathways of hydrocarbon formation. Alkanes generated by thermal breakdown of high molecular weight organic compounds have carbon and hydrogen isotopic signatures completely distinct from those formed abiotically [13-15]. Recent experimental studies, however, showed that different abiogenic hydrocarbon formation processes (e.g., polymerization vs. depolymerization) may have different carbon and hydrogen isotopic patterns . Results from previous experiments studying decomposition of higher molecular weight organic compounds (lignite) also suggested that pressure could be a crucial factor affecting fractionation of carbon isotopes . Under high pressure conditions, no experimental data are available describing fractionation of carbon isotope during mineral catalyzed FTT synthesis. Thus, hydrothermal experiments present an excellent opportunity to provide the requisite carbon isotope data. Such data can also be used to identify reaction pathways of abiotic organic synthesis under experimental conditions.
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 20120001799.
Astrobiology Science Conference 2010; 26-29 Apr. 2010; League City, TX; United States.
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