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American Mineralogist

Journal of Earth and Planetary Materials

Ed. by Baker, Don / Xu, Hongwu / Swainson, Ian


IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 2.631

CiteScore 2018: 2.55

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 1.355
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 1.103

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1945-3027
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Volume 97, Issue 10

Issues

Letter. A natural photoelectrochemical cell for water splitting: Implications for early Earth and Mars

Carrick M. Eggleston
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming, 1000 East University Avenue, Laramie, Wyoming 82071, U.S.A.
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/ Justin R. Stern
  • Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming, 1000 East University Avenue, Laramie, Wyoming 82071, U.S.A.
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/ Tess M. Strellis
  • Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming, 1000 East University Avenue, Laramie, Wyoming 82071, U.S.A.
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/ Bruce A. Parkinson
  • Department of Chemistry, University of Wyoming, 1000 East University Avenue, Laramie, Wyoming 82071, U.S.A.
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Published Online: 2015-04-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2138/am.2012.4211

Abstract

The surface oxidation of pyrite can create a (hydr)oxide layer. This configuration constitutes a natural two-semiconductor (tandem) photoelectrochemical cell. Here, we show that an illuminated hematite-pyrite cell produces photocurrent, H2, and O2 by water splitting. Photocurrent is also observed with illumination of hematite alone. The observed current densities are in the same order of magnitude as estimates of banded iron formation deposition rates, and are 400 to 1000 times higher than needed to oxidize, over geologic time, all of the surface water thought to have existed on Mars. Mineral-based water splitting constitutes a potential source of O2 prior to the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis on Earth. Semiconducting minerals deserve study as photochemical sources of oxidizing power in low-oxygen environments.

Keywords : Hematite; pyrite; photochemistry; semiconducting minerals; water splitting

About the article

Received: 2012-04-28

Accepted: 2012-07-09

Published Online: 2015-04-02

Published in Print: 2012-10-01


Citation Information: American Mineralogist, Volume 97, Issue 10, Pages 1804–1807, ISSN (Online) 1945-3027, ISSN (Print) 0003-004X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2138/am.2012.4211.

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