Identification of methane-rich rocks and their potential to support life, on Earth and Mars.
Grant held at:
University of Aberdeen, Geology and Petroleum Geology
One of the most interesting issues on Mars is the origin of the methane in the atmosphere. The methane may have relevance to the possibility of life on Mars, either as a product of microbial activity or as a potential fuel for microbes. Understanding martian methane is a major objective of the 2016 Mars mission. Eventually it will be desirable to sample the methane in concentrated form (for measurement of isotopes, accompanying gases) at the surface. However there are no data sets from ancient (100+ Ma) rocks to show their potential to retain methane. An understanding of where methane becomes encapsulated in rocks and minerals is required before any surface sampling on Mars. We also have almost no data on long-term potential for methane-rich rocks to support extremophile microbial life. If microbial life does exist on Mars, it is likely to be deep subsurface and may be adapted to grow optimally under extremes of pressure. Carbon gases (mostly CH4, CO2) are entrapped in trace quantities within rocks, and can be detected by crushing and venting to a mass spectrometer. The PhD will investigate terrestrial analogues for rock types prevalent on Mars, for (i) methane distribution and retention/release, and (ii) potential to support microbial communities
04/10/2010 - 03/04/2014
1 grant with a total value of £67,671 (GBP)