Modeling hot spring chemistries with applications to martian silica formation

By: , and 



Many recent studies have implicated hydrothermal systems as the origin of martian minerals across a wide range of martian sites. Particular support for hydrothermal systems include silica (SiO2) deposits, in some cases >90% silica, in the Gusev Crater region, especially in the Columbia Hills and at Home Plate. We have developed a model called CHEMCHAU that can be used up to 100 °C to simulate hot springs associated with hydrothermal systems. The model was partially derived from FREZCHEM, which is a colder temperature model parameterized for broad ranges of temperature (<−70 to 25 °C), pressure (1–1000 bars), and chemical composition. We demonstrate the validity of Pitzer parameters, volumetric parameters, and equilibrium constants in the CHEMCHAU model for the Na–K–Mg–Ca–H–Cl–ClO4–SO4–OH–HCO3–CO3–CO2–O2–CH4–Si–H2O system up to 100 °C and apply the model to hot springs and silica deposits.

A theoretical simulation of silica and calcite equilibrium shows how calcite is least soluble with high pH and high temperatures, while silica behaves oppositely. Such influences imply that differences in temperature and pH on Mars could lead to very distinct mineral assemblages. Using measured solution chemistries of Yellowstone hot springs and Icelandic hot springs, we simulate salts formed during the evaporation of two low pH cases (high and low temperatures) and a high temperature, alkaline (high pH) sodic water. Simulation of an acid-sulfate case leads to precipitation of Fe and Al minerals along with silica. Consistency with martian mineral assemblages suggests that hot, acidic sulfate solutions are plausibility progenitors of minerals in the past on Mars. In the alkaline pH (8.45) simulation, formation of silica at high temperatures (355 K) led to precipitation of anhydrous minerals (CaSO4, Na2SO4) that was also the case for the high temperature (353 K) low pH case where anhydrous minerals (NaCl, CaSO4) also precipitated. Thus we predict that secondary minerals associated with massive silica deposits are plausible indicators on Mars of precipitation environments and aqueous chemistry. Theoretical model calculations are in reasonable agreement with independent experimental silica concentrations, which strengthens the validity of the new CHEMCHAU model.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Modeling hot spring chemistries with applications to martian silica formation
Series title Icarus
DOI 10.1016/j.icarus.2011.01.035
Volume 212
Issue 2
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Description 14 p.
First page 629
Last page 642
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details