Perchlorates on Mars are associated with the action of “dust devils”

File Science

UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) – Scientists have demonstrated the mechanism for the formation of perchlorates on Mars, inside the powerful electric fields arising in dust storms and sand vortices.

One of the unpleasant features of the Martian soil was the abundance (0.5% and more) of perchlorates , discovered by the Phoenix and Curiosity devices working on the surface of the planet.

These derivatives of perchloric acid are highly active, toxic to living organisms and in many respects limit the possibilities of life on Mars and its future development. However, perchlorates may also be an important tool for colonists, serving as a source of oxidant for rocket fuel.

Perchlorates are also found on Earth, forming in the course of reactions stimulated by lightning strikes or ultraviolet radiation from the sun in the upper atmosphere. In the orbit of Mars, the Sun is already too weak and cannot launch the corresponding transformations.

It is assumed that the energy for these reactions on the Red Planet can create powerful electromagnetic fields arising from the friction of dust particles during local dust storms. Professor of Washington University in St. Louis, Elyan Wang (Alian Wang) and her team tested this hypothesis by experiment.

The results of the work are presented in an article published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The authors describe the experience of simulating the atmosphere of Mars (95 percent carbon dioxide, two percent nitrogen and argon, and oxygen percentage) in a sealed chamber at the bottom of which a source of chlorine was placed for the reactions (common salt).

With a low temperature and pressure typical of the atmosphere of Mars, an external electromagnetic field was applied to the chamber, the force of which corresponded to the field arising inside local dust storms and sand vortices (“dust devils”).

And indeed, almost instantly, some molecules of carbon dioxide and nitrogen turned into highly reactive forms and reacted with salt. Soon, chlorate and perchlorate ions were detected in the gas mixture.

Scientists estimate that such a mechanism for the formation of perchlorates on Mars should be many orders of magnitude more efficient than the earth mechanism, using mainly the energy of the sun’s rays.