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At Phys.org: Ancient source of oxygen for life hidden deep in the Earth’s crust


Scientists at Newcastle University have uncovered a source of oxygen that may have influenced the evolution of life before the advent of photosynthesis.

The pioneering research project, led by Newcastle University’s School of Natural and Environmental Sciences and published today in Nature Communications, uncovered a mechanism that can generate hydrogen peroxide from rocks during the movement of geological faults.

While in high concentrations hydrogen peroxide can be harmful to life, it can also provide a useful source of oxygen to microbes. This additional source of oxygen may have influenced the early evolution, and feasibly even origin, of life in hot environments on the early Earth prior to the evolution of photosynthesis.

GOES-18 full disk GeoColor image from May 5, 2022.

In tectonically active regions, the movement of the Earth’s crust not only generates earthquakes but riddles the subsurface with cracks and fractures lined with highly reactive rock surfaces containing many imperfections, or defects. Water can then filter down and react with these defects on the newly fractured rock.

Principal Investigator Dr. Jon Telling, Senior Lecturer, added: “This research shows that defects on crushed rock and minerals can behave very differently to how you would expect more ‘perfect’ mineral surfaces to react. All these mechanochemical reactions need to generate hydrogen peroxide, and therefore oxygen, is water, crushed rocks, and high temperatures, which were all present on the early Earth before the evolution of photosynthesis and which could have influenced the chemistry and microbiology in hot, seismically active regions where life may have first evolved.”

Full article at Phys.org.

With hyperbolic extrapolation, research that merely generates hydrogen peroxide is made to sound like it’s solved the naturalistic origin of life conundrum and paved the way for early evolution. Wow!

A winner for the Hyperbole of the Year Award. I think I'll also nominate it for the This Is Not Science Award. relatd

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