Evidence against hydrogen-based microbial ecosystems in basalt aquifers

Science. 1998 Aug 14;281(5379):976-7. doi: 10.1126/science.281.5379.976.


It has been proposed that hydrogen produced from basalt-ground-water interactions may serve as an energy source that supports the existence of microorganisms in the deep subsurface on Earth and possibly on other planets. However, experiments demonstrated that hydrogen is not produced from basalt at an environmentally relevant, alkaline pH. Small amounts of hydrogen were produced at a lower pH in laboratory incubations, but even this hydrogen production was transitory. Furthermore, geochemical considerations suggest that previously reported rates of hydrogen production cannot be sustained over geologically significant time frames. These findings indicate that hydrogen production from basalt-ground-water interactions may not support microbial metabolism in the subsurface.