Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences

Date of Last Revision

2020-12-11 20:32:16


Environmental Science

Honors Course


Number of Credits


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Date of Expected Graduation

Fall 2020


Many celestial bodies within our solar system may have habitable environments due to the presence of liquid water. Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, may be habitable because of its liquid ocean and other potentially biologically favorable conditions. The ocean on Europa is hypothesized to contain large amounts of oxidants and low pH due to the radiolytically processed icy ocean shell. This suspected environment on Europa is similar to the composition of acid mine drainage on Earth, which can house microbial communities in environments of extreme acidity. Similar chemical reactions in Europa’s ocean may occur to produce the appropriate reduction-oxidation gradients to support a small biomass. On Europa, the reactive oxygen species, could react with dissolved Fe(II)in the ocean, which creates Fe(III) oxides that can be reduced by the sediment on the ocean floor. This reaction could produce sufficient energy to support life if oxidants can be delivered to reducing sediments. This research aims to create oxygen slow releasing materials to mimic an iron snow reaction in an environment that is hypothesized to be similar to Europa’s ocean composition. To do this, a synthetic acid mine drainage (SAMD) solution was created to mimic the hypothesized environment of Europa’s ocean and different oxygen slow releasing treatments were performed to examine the rate of Fe(II) oxidation. The results suggested that the prepared oxygen slow releasing materials did oxidize Fe(II). The oxygen releasing compounds used in this study have important implications for future research on reduction-oxidation gradients in environments similar to Europa’s ocean.

Research Sponsor

John Senko

First Reader

Nita Sahai

Second Reader

Caleb Holyoke

Honors Faculty Advisor

John Peck



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