Dioctahedral phyllosilicates versus zeolites and carbonates versus zeolites competitions as constraints to understanding early Mars alteration conditions

1Jean-Cristophe Viennet,1Benjamin Bultel,2Lucie Riu,1Stephanie C. Werner
Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets (in Press) Link to Article [DOI: 10.1002/2017JE005343]
1Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics, Department for Geosciences, University of Oslo, Norway
2Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, Université Paris-Sud, Orsay, France
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Widespread occurrence of Fe,Mg-phyllosilicates have been observed on Noachian Martian terrains. Therefore, the study of Fe,Mg-phyllosilicates formation, in order to characterize early Martian environmental conditions, is of particular interest to the Martian community. Previous studies have shown that the investigation of Fe,Mg-smectite formation alone helps to describe early Mars environmental conditions, but there are still large uncertainties in terms of pH range, oxic/anoxic conditions, etc… Interestingly, carbonates and/or zeolites have also been observed on Noachian surfaces in association with the Fe,Mg-phyllosilicates.

Consequently, the present study focuses on the di/trioctahedral phyllosilicate/carbonate/zeolite formation as a function of various CO2 contents (100% N2, 10% CO2 / 90% N2, 100% CO2), from a combined approach including closed system laboratory experiments for 3 weeks at 120°C and geochemical simulations. The experimental results show that as the CO2 content decreases, the amount of dioctahedral clay minerals decreases in favour of trioctahedral minerals. Carbonates and dioctahedral clay minerals are formed during the experiments with CO2. When Ca-zeolites are formed, no carbonates and dioctahedral minerals are observed. Geochemical simulation aided in establishing pH as a key parameter in determining mineral formation patterns. Indeed, under acidic conditions dioctahedral clay minerals and carbonate minerals are formed, while trioctahedral clay minerals are formed in basic conditions with a neutral pH value of 5.98 at 120°C. Zeolites are favoured from pH >~7.2. The results obtained shed new light on the importance of dioctahedral clay minerals versus zeolites and carbonates versus zeolites competitions, to better define the aqueous alteration processes throughout early Mars history.

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