Amorphous salts formed from rapid dehydration of multicomponent chloride and ferric sulfate brines: Implications for Mars

1Elizabeth C. Sklute, 2A. Deanne Rogers, 2Jason C. Gregerson, 2Heidi B. Jensen, 2Richard J. Reeder, 1M. Darby Dyar
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article []
1Department of Astronomy, Mount Holyoke College, 50 College St., South Hadley, Massachusetts, 01075, U.S.A.
2Department of Geoscience, Stony Brook University, 255 Earth and Space Science Building, Stony Brook, NY 11794-2100, U.S.A.
Copyright Elsevier

Salts with high hydration states have the potential to maintain high levels of relative humidity (RH) in the near subsurface of Mars, even at moderate temperatures. These conditions could promote deliquescence of lower hydrates of ferric sulfate, chlorides, and other salts. Previous work on deliquesced ferric sulfates has shown that when these materials undergo rapid dehydration, such as that which would occur upon exposure to present day martian surface conditions, an amorphous phase forms. However, the fate of deliquesced halides or mixed ferric sulfate-bearing brines are presently unknown. Here we present results of rapid dehydration experiments on Ca-, Na-, Mg- and Fe-chloride brines and multicomponent (Fe2(SO4)3 ± Ca, Na, Mg, Fe, Cl, HCO3) brines at ∼21°C, and characterize the dehydration products using visible/near-infrared (VNIR) reflectance spectroscopy, mid-infrared attenuated total reflectance spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis. We find that rapid dehydration of many multicomponent brines can form amorphous solids or solids with an amorphous component, and that the presence of other elements affects the persistence of the amorphous phase under RH fluctuations. Of the pure chloride brines, only Fe-chloride formed an amorphous solid. XRD patterns of the multicomponent amorphous salts show changes in position, shape, and magnitude of the characteristic diffuse scattering observed in all amorphous materials that could be used to help constrain the composition of the amorphous salt. Amorphous salts deliquesce at lower RH values compared to their crystalline counterparts, opening up the possibility of their role in potential deliquescence-related geologic phenomena such as recurring slope lineae (RSLs) or soil induration. This work suggests that a wide range of aqueous mixed salt solutions can lead to the formation of amorphous salts and are possible for Mars; detailed studies of the formation mechanisms, stability and transformation behaviors of amorphous salts are necessary to further constrain their contribution to martian surface materials.


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