Scientists discover that under certain conditions two kinds of water exist.
- Water can be in two liquid states under cold temperatures, shows new research.
- The scientists used x-ray lasers and computer simulations.
- The discovery has applications across a variety of fields due to water's ubiquity.
Kate the Chemist: Water is a freak substance. Here’s why. | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="087f4755c54ffdd980c7af76e6ec437f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2ZD7buLY0bI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
A mineral made in a Kamchatka volcano may hold the answer to cheaper batteries, find scientists.
- Russian scientists discover a new mineral in the volcanic area of Kamchatka in the country's far east.
- The mineral dubbed "petrovite" can be utilized to power sodium-ion batteries.
- Batteries based on salt would be cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries.
Excited Russian scientists at the edge of the volcanic area in Kamchatka where the mineral was found.
Credit: St. Petersburg University / Filatov
Crystal structure displaying sodium migration pathways.
Credit: Filatov et al., Mineralogical Magazine, 2020
Zircons in a Martian meteorite widens the possible timeframe for life on Mars.
- A meteorite from Mars unexpectedly contains zircons that reveal the planets history.
- The rock likely comes from one of the solar system's tallest volcanoes.
- Analyzing the zirconium required smashing some very expensive rock.
Zirconian time capsules<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5NDYyNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDU1NzI1OH0.URoz_gzrLswB109_j2MJha-A5a_S0wx2n75HlYZ2esk/img.jpg?width=980" id="61509" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c04d2caf50da8a0efdf061be4ca49bf6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Earth zircon in gem form atop calcite
Credit: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com/Wikimedia<p>"We were quite surprised and excited when we found so many zircons in this Martian meteorite," says Bizzarro. "Zircon are incredible durable crystals that can be dated and preserve information that tell us about their origins." Zircons are a rarity on Mars' surface — which resembles the crust beneath Earth's ocean floors — and so scientists have not been expecting to find much of the mineral.</p><p>What makes this so intriguing, Bizzarro explains to the <a href="https://dg.dk/en/mars-meteorite-black-beauty-expands-time-frame-for-potential-life-on-the-red-planet/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>Danish National Research Foundation</u></a>, is that zircon "functions as a small time capsule because it obtains and saves information about the environment as well as when it was created. In this case a time capsule with hafnium, which comes from Mars' early crust, which existed around 100 million years before the oldest zircon in Black Beauty was created. Thus, Mars got an early start in comparison with Earth, whose solid crust was created much later."</p>
Breaking Black Beauty<p>Big Think readers may recall that the meteorite — known as "Black Beauty," though its official name is "Northwest Africa 7533" — cost the university $500,000 dollars for 50 grams of its 319.8-gram volume. As such, deciding to perform any sort of analysis that requires damaging the precious rock is not a decision taken lightly, as when, say, zircons are found in the stone.</p><p>"One of the big challenges," <a href="https://snm.ku.dk/english/news/all_news/2018/2018.6/the-meteorite-black-beauty-expands-the-window-for-when-life-might-have-existed-on-mars/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>says</u></a> Bizzarro, "has been that the zircons in Black Beauty are extremely small. This called for a courageous strategy: We crushed our precious meteorite. Or to be precise: We crushed 5 grams."</p><p>The decision paid off, says Bizzarro: "Today, I'm glad we chose that strategy. It released seven zircons, one of which is the oldest known zircon from Mars. And from the zircons and their content of hafnium, we can now conclude that the crystallization of the surface of Mars went extremely fast: already 20 million years after the formation of the solar system, Mars had a solid crust that could potentially could house oceans and perhaps also life."</p><p>Eventually, the team would crush 15 grams of Black Beauty, extracting 60 zircons.</p>
Old and young zircons<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5NDYzNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjI5MDg3OX0.AJwFBV9m2ygMbq-78hXqwUy359wi_V-VJzV6iHXZ9mk/img.jpg?width=980" id="2feeb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cdb506ceff0db1132127e2c5aac1ff6a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The oldest Martian zircon found so far
Credit: Martin Bizzarro/University of Copenhagen<p>"Zircon is a very solid mineral that is ideal for making such an absolute dating of time. In this regard, zircon can be used as a portal to pinpoint a time frame for the history of crust formation on Mars." Dating of Black Beauty's zircons shed new light on the planet's history. Most of the minerals were dated back to roughly 4.5 billion years ago, the earliest days of the planet.</p><p>Unexpectedly, though, some of the zircons were more recently formed, a period from about 1,500 million years ago to 300 million years. "These young ages were a great surprise," recalls Bizzarro.</p><p>That finding may have to do with where the rock came from. "The Black Beauty meteorite is believed to come from the southern hemisphere of Mars, which does not have any young volcanic terrains. The only possible source for these young zircons is the Tharsis volcanic province located in the northern hemisphere of the planet, which contains large volcanoes that were recently active," Martin Bizzarro adds.</p><p>That province, known as the Tharsis bulge, is a huge volcanic area that's got the largest volcanoes, up to 21 kilometers (13 miles) high, yet seen anywhere in the solar system. It's believed that since Mars lacks plate tectonics, volcanoes gather in a single area, beneath which a massive reservoir of magma is likely located.</p><p>First author of the study is Mafalda Costa , who says, "Having samples of the deep interior of Mars is key. This means that we can now use these zircons to probe the origin of the volatile elements on Mars, including its water, and see how it compares with Earth and other planets in the Solar System."</p><p>The most important element the zircons contain for the purpose of looking into Mars history is hafnium. Bizzarro explains that hafnium "retains a memory of where the zircon formed. We found that the hafnium isotope composition of the young zircons is unlike any of the known Martian meteorites, which indicates that the young zircons come from a primitive reservoir that we did not know existed in the interior of Mars."</p>
An ancient Martian meteorite carries with it some compelling implications.
- The meteorite behind the new research, Black Beauty, is 4.45 billion years old. This means it is from right around the time when Mars formed.
- It contained intact, ancient water-bearing minerals.
- The research indicates later asteroid-impact effects that could only have occurred if water was already present.
Black Beauty<p>The authors' research is based on a meteorite from Mars called "<a href="https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/resources/2258/black-beauty-mars-meteorite/" target="_blank">Black Beauty</a>" that was found in the Moroccan desert. Black Beauty is 4.45 billion years old and comes from the Martian crust, providing a rare window into the early days of <a href="https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/mars/in-depth/" target="_blank">Mars</a> and the solar system. "It is a gold mine of information. And extremely valuable," Bizzarro tells <a href="https://news.ku.dk/all_news/2020/11/researchers-present-wild-theory-water-may-be-naturally-occurring-on-all-rocky-planets/" target="_blank">University of Copenhagen News</a>. At $10,000 per gram, the researchers purchased 50 grams for $500,000. </p>
Early Water<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc3NDY1My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NzMzNTQ2NX0.7WAs8y6IDCPkr65xT76wyabW0F6ecLXPDVUeG-8bVe8/img.jpg?width=980" id="b1557" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="704699570a755afa740a81b70e90cff2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Lake-floor sedimentary deposits on Mars
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS<p>Black Beauty indicates that liquid water was present on Mars in the first 90 million years after it was formed. To deduce this, the researchers had to crush and dissolve 15 expensive grams of the meteorite for analysis. "It suggests that water emerged with the formation of Mars. And it tells us that water may be naturally occurring on planets and does not require an external source like water-rich asteroids," says Bizzarro.</p><p>Supporting this were signs of asteroid impacts that resulted in the release of a great deal of oxygen, something the scientists say could only have occurred if water was present. "We have developed a new technique that tells us that Mars in its infancy suffered one or more severe asteroid impacts" says Deng. "The impact, Black Beauty reveals, created kinetic energy that released a lot of oxygen. And the only mechanism that could likely have caused the release of such large amounts of oxygen is the presence of water."</p>
Mystery solution?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc3NDc1Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzk1MDY0MH0.eMw-JPwYcXTDa7dfYfjg2CUSFwwxpBaBK-0vlXTQEFI/img.jpg?width=980" id="02e74" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87960e3e5ad8d9f0d39954e400746cb8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: University of Copenhagen<p>The analysis may also provide an answer to one of the lingering mysteries of Mars: How could such a cold planet have accommodated the water for the lake and river remnants we see there today, as shown above? Black Beauty bears indications that early asteroid impacts released a significant amount of greenhouse gases that warmed the now-chilly orb for a time. "This means," says Deng, "that the CO2-rich atmosphere may have caused temperatures to rise and thus allowed liquid water to exist at the surface of Mars."</p><p>The researchers are not yet finished with their expensive rock, and are currently engaged in further study of the microscope water-bearing minerals it contains. They appear to be present in their original, unchanged form. The authors of the paper believe Black Beauty was there at the long-ago moment when water first emerged on the red planet.</p>
Another amazing tardigrade survival skill is discovered.
- Apparently, some water bears can even beat extreme UV light.
- It may be an adaptation to the summer heat in India.
- Special under-skin pigments neutralize harmful rays.
Stressor testing<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU1MzIzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjc2MDc4Mn0.5R6DAfzsq29zvETCEH1sR9rprcnJv_L0KyUW2qedslE/img.jpg?width=980" id="c6b71" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e7afe644fc94631ed9ea6837ed3920d3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="water bear illustration" />
3D illustration of a tardigrade
Credit: Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock<p>It seems at times like scientists enjoy playing the "let's see if <em>this</em> kills them" game with tardigrades, a game that humans usually lose. After searching the campus of the Indian Institute of Science, researchers gathered some water bears and brought them back to the lab to see what they could handle.</p><p>The scientists found that after they exposed <a href="http://cshprotocols.cshlp.org/content/2018/11/pdb.emo102301.full" target="_blank"><em>Hypsibius exemplaris</em></a> tardigrades to very high doses — 1 kilojoule (kJ) per square meter — of UV light for about 15 minutes, they would in fact die over the next 24 hours. However, when they aimed the same blasts at the reddish-brown tardigrades…nothing. The humans even quadrupled the UV intensity and, nope, they tracked the water bears for 30 days, and a majority of them, 60 percent, were still fine.</p><p>As is often the case with tardigrades, the question is how?</p>
Turning deadly light blue<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU1MzIwMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMTM1NTE2N30.n8FiCLgp5aTqmYby2bjpeu9QJRTV7KzaB9tmTHBzWtk/img.jpg?width=980" id="5d4cc" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7aa8735a958123bcfb269920eb4d2aed" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Tardigrade's normal appearance (left), and under inverted fluorescence (right)
Credit: Suma et al., Biology Letters (2020)<p>When the researchers examined the tardigrades under an inverted fluorescence microscope they found that when they were exposed to UV light, they became blue. The researchers' hypothesis is that these tardigrades carry fluorescent pigments beneath their skin that they deploy as necessary to transform UV light into simple benign, blue light. It may be that this ability has emerged as an evolutionary response to southern tropical India's often-extreme heat. The study says that typical summer-day UV levels in this region are about 4kJ per square meter.</p><p>Of the 40 percent of the reddish-brown tardigrades that had died before 30 days — mostly after about 20 days — the scientists concluded they had less pigment with which to neutralize UV light.</p><p>When the scientists extracted the pigment from the UV champions and coated some <em>Hypsibius exemplaris</em> tardigrades with the stuff, their resistance to UV exposure was also enhanced, boosting their survival rate to almost twice that of their uncoated brethren.</p><p>Autofluorescence has been found in other animals — parrots, scorpions, chameleons, and frogs, among others — so it's not completely unheard of. In parrots, for example, autofluorescence is hypothesized to be involved in tweaking coloration during mating rituals. Still, surprise, tardigrades seem to be putting it to unusual use by employing it for UV protection. </p>