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Bacherlor Thesis: Study of natural electrical current across hydrothermal chimneys for the emergence of Life

The project of this Bachelor Thesis takes place in a French-German collaboration between the MIO (Marseille, France) and the UVT team (Bremen, Germany). During the last decade, studies have shown the presence of a natural electrical current across the chimney walls of modern hydrothermal vents. This phenomenon occurs by the oxidation of H2S from the hydrothermal fluid on the internal side of the chimney made of conductive pyrite, coupled with the reduction of oxygen outside from the surrounding seawater. Since few years, we made the hypothesis that this electrical current could have been the first energy source for the emergence of Life in hydrothermal context during the Hadean. We notably succeeded to enrich modern deep-branching archaea from hydrothermal communities using only electricity and CO2, as proof of the favorable thermodynamic of such metabolism. However, during the Hadean, the O2 required for this natural electrical current was not available as it appeared after the great oxygenation event.
In this project, we aim to show that a similar reaction could have occurred by the reduction of Nitrate produced by lightning in the atmosphere.
The experimental work will consist of the characterization of this reaction in H-cells using pyrite as electrodes. Polarization curves will be performed at different concentrations of H2S and Nitrate, and different temperature. A modelling of the results will be performed using MATLAB/Python and or a multiphysics simulation tool. Thus, we are seeking for a highly motivated bachelor student, willing to contribute in the field of exobiology.
Candidates with background in electrochemistry will be preferred.

Language:      

English

Starting date:  

September 1st, 2021

Period of time:  

6 months

Supervisors:   

Prof. Dr.-Ing habil. Sven Kerzenmacher – kerzenmacherprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

Dr. Guillaume Pillot – pillotprotect me ?!uvt.uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

Dr. Óscar Santiago Carretero - santiagoprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

www.uvt.uni-bremen.de