Water-soluble sulphate minerals such as epsomite and gypsum have been reported on a number of planetary bodies of astrobiological interest and their presence is often used as an indicator for potential habitability as it can indicate the presence of liquid water. The sulphate minerals can incorporate biomarkers and biomolecules as intracrystalline inclusions. These intracrystalline inclusions are protected from their exterior chemical environments and their analysis can yield a biomarker record, even in environments where extreme oxidizing conditions may have degraded any record present in non-intracrystalline organic matter. In this study, organic compounds were incorporated within epsomite as intracrystalline inclusions by co-precipitating a mineral from solutions of a mineral and organic compound. A feasibly study utilizing a microfluidic H-cell to process finely ground samples of the inclusion-bearing epsomite indicates that a similar device may be used to extract biomarkers for analysis.
Bibliographical noteThis work was supported by EPSRC grant GR/S47267/01.
- Life detection