Markovsky C, Byrne JM, Lalla E, Lozano-Gorrin AD, Klingelhoefer G, Rull F, Kappler A, Hoffmann T & Schröder C (2017) Abiotic versus biotic iron mineral transformation studied by a miniaturized backscattering Mössbauer spectrometer (MIMOS II), X-ray diffraction and Raman spectroscopy. Icarus, 296, pp. 49-58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2017.05.017
Searching for biomarkers or signatures of microbial transformations of minerals is a critical aspect for determining how life evolved on Earth, and whether or not life may have existed in other planets, including Mars. In order to solve such questions, several missions to Mars have sought to determine the geochemistry and mineralogy on the Martian surface. This research includes the two miniaturized Mössbauer spectrometers (MIMOS II) on board the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which have detected a variety of iron minerals on Mars, including magnetite (Fe2+Fe3+2O4) and goethite (α-FeO(OH)). On Earth, both minerals can derive from microbiological activity (e.g. through dissimilatory iron reduction of ferrihydrite by Fe(III)-reducing bacteria). Here we used a lab based MIMOS II to characterize the mineral products of biogenic transformations of ferrihydrite to magnetite by the Fe(III)-reducing bacteria Geobacter sulfurreducens. In combination with Raman spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction (XRD), we observed the formation of magnetite, goethite and siderite. We compared the material produced by biogenic transformations to abiotic samples in order to distinguish abiotic and biotic iron minerals by techniques that are or will be available onboard Martian based laboratories. The results showed the possibility to distinguish the abiotic and biotic origin of the minerals. Mossbauer was able to distinguish the biotic/abiotic magnetite with the interpretation of the geological context (Fe content mineral assemblages and accompanying minerals) and the estimation of the particle size in a non-destructive way. The Raman was able to confirm the biotic/abiotic principal peaks of the magnetite, as well as the organic principal vibration bands attributed to the bacteria. Finally, the XRD confirmed the particle size and mineralogy.
Bio-magnetite; Mössbauer spectroscopy; Raman spectroscopy; iron oxides; XRD
Icarus: Volume 296
|Publication date online||31/05/2017|
|Date accepted by journal||24/05/2017|