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Self-Organizing Chemical Systems: From Materials Science to Astrobiology

Presenter: Laura Barge, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
When: May 12, 2015 3PM PDT

Self-organizing processes in chemical reaction/precipitation systems can lead to a variety of complex structures, including chemical gardens and inorganic membranes. They key aspects of these systems are the steep concentration gradients and far-from-equilibrium conditions, which in turn are determined by environmental and chemical factors. Chemical garden systems form complex self-organized structures and are now known to have many interesting and useful aspects, such as the ability to generate electrochemical energy and act as catalysts, and there is much interest in learning to control the precipitation process in such systems in order to produce useful materials. Chemical garden precipitates exist in nature as well, including hydrothermal chimneys, which form at the interface of contrasting seawater and vent fluids. Seafloor hydrothermal systems generate disequilibria through water-rock reactions in the form of redox, pH, chemical and thermal gradients; and the inorganic precipitates formed in these gradients could have played a role in prebiotic chemistry and the origin of life on the early Earth, and also could affect habitability and energy availability on other worlds with water-rock interfaces.

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