1 November 2004 Testing the role of silicic acid and bioorganic materials in the formation of rock coatings
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Abstract
Silica, amino acids, and DNA were recently discovered in desert varnish. In this work we experimentally test the proposed role of silicic acid and bio-chemicals in the formation of desert varnish and other rock coatings. We have developed a protocol in which the rocks were treated with a mixture of silicic acid, sugars, amino acids, metals and clays, under the influence of heat and UV light. This protocol reflects the proposed mechanism of the polymerization of silicic acid with the biooganic materials, and the laboratory model for the natural conditions under which the desert varnish is formed. Our experiments produced coatings with a hardness and morphology that resemble the natural ones. These results provide a support for the role of silicic acid in the formation of rock coatings. Since the hard silica-based coatings preserve organic compounds in them, they may serve as a biosignature for life, here or possibly on Mars.
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Vera M. Kolb, Ajish I. Philip, Randall S. Perry, "Testing the role of silicic acid and bioorganic materials in the formation of rock coatings", Proc. SPIE 5555, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology VIII, (1 November 2004); doi: 10.1117/12.568654; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.568654
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