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Natural radioactive environments as a source of local disequilibrium in planetary and prebiotic scenarios

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Thiago Altair Ferreira
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Master's Dissertation
Press: São Carlos.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Instituto de Física de São Carlos (IFSC/BT)
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Douglas Galante; Juliana de Moraes Leme Basso; Gustavo de Araujo Rojas
Advisor: Douglas Galante

Certain subterranean environments of the Earth has naturally accumulated compounds of longlived radionuclides, such as 238U, 232Th 40K, near the presence of liquid water. The same is estimated in wet planetary bodies in the Solar System. In these natural radioactive environments, water radiolysis produces chemical species and chemical disequilibria, which are important for life. Although the proposal of radioactive decay as an alternative source of energy for deep biospheres has existed for more than thirty years, this proved to be really feasible after the discovery of a peculiar ecosystem whose survivor is dependent on chemical species produced by water radiolysis. In this work, we evaluate and quantify the chemical disequilibria generated locally by water radiolysis and the possible contribution of these to the emergence of life, having as reference the studies alkaline hydrothermal vents, which is considered highly promising environment for this event. It is also evaluated their effects on the habitability of possible analogous environments on the Jupiter icy moon Europa. It was aimed to quantify the chemical diversity formed under these conditions and to calculate disequilibria using thermodynamic parameters. The estimates made for natural radioactive environments in early Earth pointed to the similarity between the disequilibrium caused by water radiolysis and those found in alkaline hydrothermal vents. What confirms and details the preliminary analysis that motivated this work. In addition, it was calculated values for cell density of the Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator extremophile, that would survive in Europa comparable to the in situ analysis of some terrestrial radioactive environments, using a set of possible scenarios for possible local natural radioactive environments. From this study, we were able to analyze the potential for the emergence of life and protometabolisms in these natural radioactive environments in early Earth, as well as to provide measurable parameters for future space missions that seek for life or habitability in Europa. (AU)

FAPESP's process: 16/08854-7 - Natural radioactive enviroments as sources of local chemical disequilibrium and its potencial prebiotic aftercomes
Grantee:Thiago Altair Ferreira
Support type: Scholarships in Brazil - Master