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Detection of Soluble and Fixed NH4+ in Clay Minerals by DTA and IR Reflectance Spectroscopy : A Potential Tool for Planetary Surface ExplorationNitrogen is an essential element for life. It is the only element among the six major biogenic elements, C, O, S, O, P, H, whose presence in the Martian soil has not been positively and directly established. We describe here a study assessing the ability to detect NH4 in soils by two methods: differential thermal analysis (DTA) and infrared (IR) reflectance spectroscopy. Four standard clay minerals (kaolinite, montmorillonite, illite and attapulgite) and an altered tephra sample from Mauna Kea were treated with NH4 in this study. Samples of the NH4-treated and leached clays were analyzed by DTA and infrared (IR) reflectance spectroscopy to quantify the delectability of soluble and sorbed/fixed NH4. An exotherm at 270-280 C was clearly detected in the DTA curves of NH4-treated (non-leached) samples. This feature is assigned to the thermal decomposition reaction of NH4. Spectral bands observed at 1.56, 2.05, 2.12, 3.06, 3.3, 3.5, 5.7 and 7.0 microns in the reflectance spectra of NH4-treated and leached samples are assigned to the sorbed/fixed ammonium in the clays. The montmorillonite has shown the most intense absorbance due to fixed ammonium among the leached samples in this study, as a result of its high cation sorption capacity. It is concluded that the presence of sorbed or fixed NH4 in clays may be detected by infrared (IR) reflectance or emission spectroscopy. Distinction between soluble and sorbed NH4 may be achieved through the presence or absence of several spectral features assigned to the sorbed NH4 moietyi and, specifically, by use of the 4.2 micrometer feature assigned to solution NH4. Thermal analyses furnish supporting evidence of ammonia in our study through detection of N released at temperatures of 270-330 C. Based on these results it is estimated that IR spectra measured from a rover should be able to detect ammonia if present above 20 mg NH4/g sample in the surface layers. Orbital IR spectra and thermal analyses measured on a rover may be able to detect ammonia in soils as well but at higher abundances. The spectral features at 3.06 and 7.0 microns due to bound NH4 in clays and altered Hawaiian tephra appear to be the most promising for detection by orbital spectrometers. If N species are present on Mars the sedimentary deposits may be the best regions to look for them.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Janice, Bishop (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Inst. United States)
Banin, A. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Mancinelli, R. L. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Klovstad, M. R. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
DeVincenzi, Donald L.
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2001
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.