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Kinetics of White Soft Minerals (WSMs) Decomposition under Conditions of Interest for Astrobiology: A Theoretical and Experimental Study

1
Department of Chemistry, University of Bari “Aldo Moro”, Via Orabona 4, 70126 Bari, Italy
2
Department of Mathematics and Physics “Ennio De Giorgi”, University of Salento, Via per Arnesano, 73100 Lecce, Italy
3
National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN)—Unit of Lecce, Via per Arnesano, 73100 Lecce, Italy
4
National Research Council (CNR)—Nanotec, Via Amendola 122/D, 70126 Bari, Italy
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Geosciences 2019, 9(2), 101; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9020101
Received: 18 December 2018 / Revised: 15 February 2019 / Accepted: 19 February 2019 / Published: 23 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Planetary Evolution and Search for Life on Habitable Planets)
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Abstract

In this paper, the thermal decomposition kinetics of a class of minerals that we call White Soft Minerals (WSMs) is studied by means of theoretical and experimental methods, in connection to the transport of extraterrestrial organic matter to Earth and the possible use of the decomposition reaction in the characterization of these minerals in space. WSMs include, under a single denomination, carbonates and sulphates of Mg, Fe, and Ca. To improve the present knowledge of the properties of such materials, we use the following techniques: kinetic models for chemical decomposition, atmospheric entry models, spectroscopy, and gravimetric analyses. Model results show that the atmospheric entry of WSM grains is strongly affected by their thermal decomposition. The decomposition reaction, being strongly endothermic, tends to significantly lower the grain temperature during the atmospheric entry, especially at high altitudes and for grazing entries. A previously proposed infrared spectroscopic technique to evaluate the degree of advancement of the reaction is found to be in good agreement with gravimetric measurements for calcium carbonate. The numerical model developed for the atmospheric entry scenarios is used to interpret experimental results. These main findings show that an additional contribution to the reaction enthalpy is needed to reproduce the experimental results, suggesting that the present theoretical model needs improvements such as the account of gas diffusion in the materials. View Full-Text
Keywords: astrobiology; white soft minerals; carbonates; sulphates; entry model; decomposition model; spectroscopy; gravimetry astrobiology; white soft minerals; carbonates; sulphates; entry model; decomposition model; spectroscopy; gravimetry
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Micca Longo, G.; D’Elia, M.; Fonti, S.; Longo, S.; Mancarella, F.; Orofino, V. Kinetics of White Soft Minerals (WSMs) Decomposition under Conditions of Interest for Astrobiology: A Theoretical and Experimental Study. Geosciences 2019, 9, 101.

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