The Other Planetary Fluid: Carbon Dioxide as a Medium for Chemical Changes During Early Evolution in the Solar System

Project: Research project

Project Details


Goals and Objectives: During accretion and differentiation of solar-system bodies, temperatures can be high enough to drive melting and chemical transformation of volatiles. Aqueous solutions and hydrothermal systems are familiar consequences with impressive capacities for rock alteration, element transport, and transformation of organic and inorganic volatile compounds. Less familiar are transport, redistribution, and transformation processes that occur in CO2-rich fluids, which are postulated to also be products of accretion and differentiation processes. The main goal of this project is to generate thermodynamic models of how CO2-rich fluids transform other volatile constituents of solar-system bodies early in their evolution. Our objectives are to provide the tools for planetary scientists to test ideas about the effectiveness of CO2-rich fluids in transporting, redistributing, and transforming organic compounds during early stages of formation of solar-system bodies. These theoretical tools will allow tests of the consequences and relative effectiveness of CO2-rich and aqueous fluids in the transformation of organic compounds inherited from the solar nebula. Plans call to test the involvement of CO2-rich fluids in the production of major classes of organic compounds found in meteorites and thought to be present early in solar system history including alkanes, polycyclic aromatics, amines, carboxylic acids and amino acids. Methodology: We will take advantage of the most up-to-date and accurate equation of state for CO2, which is well-calibrated over the ranges of temperatures and pressures of planetary processes. We will use numerous sets of data on the solubility of organic compounds in CO2 to generate a database of thermodynamic properties, and to search for correlations to build estimation algorithms. The results will be combined into computer codes for predicting the thermodynamic properties of reactions occurring in CO2 solutions, and implemented in model calculations to test hypotheses about the transport, redistribution, and transformation of volatile compounds in CO2-rich fluids on solar-system bodies. Relevance to the Emerging Worlds Call for Proposals: The proposed research will be relevant to the Emerging Worlds program because it will relate to the dynamical evolution of the Solar System theme, including: Early thermal and chemical processes occurring on small bodies regardless of whether or when they differentiated, and processes that occur on solar-system bodies during the period of global differentiation. In addition this research will also focus on the abundances and preservation of organic molecules in accreting matter, and their survival through the accretion process.
Effective start/end date3/31/153/31/20


  • NASA: Goddard Space Flight Center: $279,000.00


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