Chemical Gardens as Electrochemical Systems: In Situ Characterization of Simulated Prebiotic Hydrothermal Vents by Impedance Spectroscopy

Chempluschem. 2020 Dec;85(12):2619-2628. doi: 10.1002/cplu.202000600.


In an early earth or planetary chimney systems, hydrothermal fluid chemistry and flow durations play a large role in the chimney's ability to drive electrochemical reactions for the origin of life. We performed continuous electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) characterization on inorganic membranes representing prebiotic hydrothermal chimney vents in natural seafloor systems, by incorporating an electrode array into a chimney growth experiment. Localized potential and capacitances profiles in the chimney reveal a dynamic system where redox processes are driven by transport phenomena, increasing rapidly due to disequilibrium until achieving equilibrium at about 100 mV and 1000 μF/cm2 . The impedance in the chimney interior is three orders of magnitude lower (100 Ohms/cm2 vs 100 KOhms/cm2 ) than at the ocean or the ocean/chimney interface. The calculated peak dissipation factor (DF) values are more than ten times higher (40.0 vs 3.0) and also confirm the elevated chemical reactivity in the chimney interior.

Keywords: chemical gardens; geo-electrochemistry; hydrothermal vents; impedance spectroscopy; origin of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.