Modeling aluminum-silicon chemistries and application to Australian acidic playa lakes as analogues for Mars

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta

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DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2009.03.013



Recent Mars missions have stimulated considerable thinking about the surficial geochemical evolution of Mars. Among the major relevant findings are the presence in Meridiani Planum sediments of the mineral jarosite (a ferric sulfate salt) and related minerals that require formation from an acid-salt brine and oxidizing environment. Similar mineralogies have been observed in acidic saline lake sediments in Western Australia (WA), and these lakes have been proposed as analogues for acidic sedimentary environments on Mars. The prior version of the equilibrium chemical thermodynamic FREZCHEM model lacked Al and Si chemistries that are needed to appropriately model acidic aqueous geochemistries on Earth and Mars. The objectives of this work were to (1) add Al and Si chemistries to the FREZCHEM model, (2) extend these chemistries to low temperatures (<0 ??C), if possible, and (3) use the reformulated model to investigate parallels in the mineral precipitation behavior of acidic Australian lakes and hypothetical Martian brines. FREZCHEM is an equilibrium chemical thermodynamic model parameterized for concentrated electrolyte solutions using the Pitzer approach for the temperature range from <-70 to 25 ??C and the pressure range from 1 to 1000 bars. Aluminum chloride and sulfate mineral parameterizations were based on experimental data. Aluminum hydroxide and silicon mineral parameterizations were based on Gibbs free energy and enthalpy data. New aluminum and silicon parameterizations added 12 new aluminum/silicon minerals to this Na-K-Mg-Ca-Fe(II)-Fe(III)-Al-H-Cl-Br-SO4-NO3-OH-HCO3-CO3-CO2-O2-CH4-Si-H2O system that now contain 95 solid phases. There were similarities, differences, and uncertainties between Australian acidic, saline playa lakes and waters that likely led to the Burns formation salt accumulations on Mars. Both systems are similar in that they are dominated by (1) acidic, saline ground waters and sediments, (2) Ca and/or Mg sulfates, and (3) iron precipitates such as jarosite and hematite. Differences include: (1) the dominance of NaCl in many WA lakes, versus the dominance of Fe-Mg-Ca-SO4 in Meridiani Planum, (2) excessively low K+ concentrations in Meridiani Planum due to jarosite precipitation, (3) higher acid production in the presence of high iron concentrations in Meridiani Planum, and probably lower rates of acid neutralization and hence, higher acidities on Mars owing to colder temperatures, and (4) lateral salt patterns in WA lakes. The WA playa lakes display significant lateral variations in mineralogy and water chemistry over short distances, reflecting the interaction of acid ground waters with neutral to alkaline lake waters derived from ponded surface runoff. Meridiani Planum observations indicate that such lateral variations are much less pronounced, pointing to the dominant influence of ground water chemistry, vertical ground water movements, and aeolian processes on the Martian surface mineralogy. ?? 2009 Elsevier Ltd.

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Modeling aluminum-silicon chemistries and application to Australian acidic playa lakes as analogues for Mars
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