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Creation of a Reverse Chemical Garden to Assess Redox

Potential during an Abiotic Reaction


Audrey Miller and
1,2 Allison Enright 1

1. Rutgers University – Newark, 101 Warren Street, Newark NJ, 07029


2. Loras College – Audrey.Miller@loras.edu

Introduction Methods (Con’t) Results Discussion and Conclusions


Chemical gardens are inorganic growths The redox potential was taken at a rate of 100 While the experiment was carried out, ferrozine Based upon the results gathered from this
formed via a reaction between a metal salt and ms/measurement via a data-acquisition device analysis was performed to ensure that the experiment, the abiotic reaction is consistent
an anionic solution. In this reaction, a (DAQ) connected to a PC laptop running reaction was consuming iron (See Figure 5). with previous abiotic results, even in an
semipermeable membrane is formed, allowing National Instruments’ LabVIEW program. Detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA) was experimental setup where there is fluid flow.
ions to pass through, creating an ion gradient Other measurements—redox potential, pH, and performed on the the redox potential data to The low concentrations of iron sulfate and
and redox potential that can be measured and conductivity—were taken manually every five assess the correlation within the time series sodium silicate did not yield visually-obvious
quantified (Barge, 2015). The presence of this minutes. Additionally, three 50 µL aliquots of data. The resulting plot gives the DFA exponent chemical gardens, such as gardens grown at
electrical potential has been proposed to be the the reaction solution were removed every five (α), or the slope of the trend line, which is higher concentrations (pictured at the top of
“battery” that jump-started life on Earth minutes for analysis of dissolved total iron significant in determining correlation (Peng, this poster). However, these lower
billions of years ago, following the Hadean Eon using the Ferrozine method (Stookey, 1970). 1995; Hardstone, 2012). If α = 1, normal concentrations were chosen specifically because
(Mielke, 2011; Barge, 2015). This process could solution diffusion is occurring; if α ≠ 1, more or they better represent the conditions of the
have occurred in the form of hydrothermal less diffusion than expected is occurring (See oceans of early Earth. The chemical gardens
vents, which can be viewed as large-scale Figure 6). grown in this experiment are reminiscent of the
chemical gardens (Mielke, 2011). Certain chemistry that formed the hydrothermal vents
techniques have been developed to differentiate 1.20E-04
that could have sparked the production of life

Concentration (mol/L)
between abiotic and biotic redox signatures, 1.00E-04 on Earth. These results provide further
such as detrended fluctuation analysis (Enright, evidence that the DFA analysis performed here,

Diluted Iron
8.00E-05
2016). This experiment was conducted to 6.00E-05 in conjunction with time series data taken from
confirm the existence of a distinct signature of y = -8E-07x + 1E-04 a redox electrode, is a fitting type of analysis in
4.00E-05
abiotic redox fluctuations during the formation R² = 0.9775 the search for life within extraterrestrial oceans.
of an biologically inactive chemical garden. 2.00E-05

0.00E+00
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 References
Time (Minutes)
Methods Barge, L.M., Abedian, Y., Russell, M. J., Doloboff, I. J., Cartwright, J. H. E., Kidd, R. D., &
Kanik, I. (2015). From Chemical Gardens to Fuel Cells: Generation of Electrical Potential
Figure 5: Iron Concentration Detected over Time and Current across Self-Assembling Iron Mineral Membranes. Angewandte
A reverse chemical garden was created by the Communications International Edition, 54, 8184-8187. 10.1002/anie.201501663
Enright, A. M. L., & Ferris, F. G. (2016) Fluctuation Analysis of Redox Potential to Distinguish
injection of 200 mL of 0.005 M sodium silicate Figs. 1 and 2 (top): Dilute chemical garden reaction progress after 20
Microbial Fe(II) Oxidation. Astrobiology, 16(11), 846-852. 10.1089/ast.2016.1509
minutes; Fig. 3 (bottom left): Close-up view of the custom plastic shell Iron concentration decreased with time, Hardstone, R., Poil, S., Schiavone, G., Jansen, R., Nikulin, V. V., Mansvelder, H. D., &
into 600 mL of 0.01 M iron sulfate at a rate of injection method; Fig. 4 (bottom right): Experimental bench-top setup. Linkenkaer-Hansen, K. (2012). Detrended fluctuation analysis: a scale-free view on
confirming the reaction was indeed occurring. neuronal oscillations. Frontiers in Physiology, 3(450), 1-13. 10.3389/fphys.2012.00450
approximately 3.5 mL/min via a peristaltic Mielke, R. E., Robinson, K. J., White, L. M., McGlynn, S. E., McEachern, K., Bhartia, R., Kanik,
I., & Russell, M. J. (2011). Iron-Sulfide-Bearing Chimneys as Potential Catalytic Energy
pump. This created thin semi-permeable Traps at Life’s Emergence. Astrobiology, 11(10), 933-950. 10.1089/ast.2011.0667
Peng, C. K., Havlin, S. Stanley, H. E., & Goldberger, A. L. (1995). Quantification of scaling
membranes, according to the chemical exponents and crossover phenomena in nonstationary heartbeat time series. Chaos, 5(1),
0.5 The experimental 82-87. 10.1063/1.166141
equation: Stookey, L. L. (1970). Ferrozine – A New Spectrophotometric Reagent for Iron. Analytical
0 redox data yields Chemistry, 42(7), 779-781. 10.1021/ac60289a016

𝐹𝑒𝑆𝑂4 (𝑎𝑞) + 𝑁𝑎2 𝑆𝑖𝑂3 (𝑎𝑞) → 𝐹𝑒𝑆𝑖𝑂3 (𝑠) + 𝑁𝑎2 𝑆𝑂4 (𝑎𝑞)
0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 0.5< α < 1, indicating
log (Fluctuation)

-0.5
slower diffusion than Acknowledgements
-1 predicted by Fick’s Research was supported by the Research Experience for
A custom plastic shell was created to house a Experimental Undergraduates (REU) program, funded by the National Science
y = 0.7434x - 2.4087 laws
platinum redox electrode with an Ag-Ag/Cl Iron -1.5
R² = 0.9293
Foundation. This project was carried out at Rutgers University-
Newark, in Dr. Mihaela Glamoclija’s geomicrobiology lab which is
internal reference, plus the injected silicate
-2 The iron redox data supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
solution. At the base of the shell was a layer of y = 1.3051x - 3.6956 Special thanks to Dr. Allison Enright for her guidance and
yields α > 1, indicating
parafilm that, when punctured by the tip of the -2.5 R² = 0.9624 assistance during this project.
that superdiffusion is
electrode, released the silicate solution around -3 occurring, and more
the electrode. This was done to measure the log (Window Size)
particles are hitting the
redox potential inside the membrane, rather Figure 6: Detrended Fluctuation Analysis of the Redox Potential During the Formation of an Iron-
electrode
than the surrounding iron solution. Silicate Chemical Garden Compared to the Background Redox Potential of the Iron Solution

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