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Feb 06, 2017 09:06 AM EST

Irish University-Led Study Offers Alternative Option On How Earth's Water Was Formed

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A study led by University College Dublin (UCD) has theorized that water on Earth may have been initially formed by chemical reactions within the planet's mantle. This provides an alternative explanation to how water originated in our home planet.

It is widely believed that water on Earth came about when comets collided with the planet. This could have deposited massive amounts of ice which later melted and formed water.

Phys.org reported that Zdenek Futera, UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, under the direction of Profesor Niall English, UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, and the Materials, Energy and Water Simulations research group, did computer simulations and found that reactions between chemicals in the Earth's mantle can form liquid. The researchers also collaborated with the paper's co-author, Professor John Tse, University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

Specifically, the reactions of high-pressure and high-temperature fluid hydrogen and silicon dioxide in quartz found in the Earth's upper mantle, under the right conditions, are enough to form liquid water. The scientists tested the reaction at different temperatures and pressures that are usually found in the Earth's layers, 40 to 400 kilometers below the planet's surface.

It was revealed that the silica and fluid hydrogen can form liquid water when exposed to temperatures just above 1400°C and at a pressure that is 20,000 times higher than the Earth's atmospheric pressure. Silica can be found above and below the Earth as mineral quartz while the planet's crust is 59 percent silica.

Speaking to New Scientist, Professor Tse said that the simulation showed how the water was formed inside quartz, not outside as initially believed. With this, the pressure builds up, reaching as much as 200,000 atmospheres. He added that the high pressure of the water may have led to induced earthquakes.

Other scientists also claimed that this suggested that the water may have caused deep quakes. It is still unknown, though, exactly how much water was formed inside the Earth and how much was caused by external forces.

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