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    Reactions between komatiite and CO2-rich seawater at 250 and 350°C, 500 bars: implications for hydrogen generation in the Hadean seafloor hydrothermal system

    Ueda H, Shibuya T, Sawaki Y, Saitoh M, Takai K, Maruyama S

    Komatiite, CO2-rich condition, Early Earth, hydrothermal alteration, Serpeninization

    Changes in dissolved CO2 (a) and H2 (b) concentrations in the sampled fluids as a function of reaction time.

    To understand the chemical nature of hydrothermal fluids in the komatiite-hosted seafloor hydrothermal system in the Hadean, we conducted two hydrothermal serpentinization experiments involving synthetic komatiite and a CO2-rich acidic NaCl fluid at 250 and 350 °C, 500 bars. During the experiments, the komatiites were strongly carbonated to yield iron-rich dolomite (3–9 wt.% FeO) at 250 °C and calcite (<0.8 wt.% FeO) at 350 °C, respectively. The carbonation of komatiites suppressed H2 generation in the fluids. The steady-state H2 concentrations in the fluid were approximately 0.024 and 2.9 mmol/kg at 250 and 350 °C, respectively. This correlation between the Fe content in carbonate mineral and the H2 concentration in the fluid suggests that the incorporation of ferrous iron into the carbonate mineral probably limited magnetite formation and consequent generation of hydrogen during the serpentinization of komatiites. The H2 concentration of the fluid at 350 °C corresponds to that of modern H2-rich seafloor hydrothermal systems, such as the Kairei hydrothermal field, where hydrogenotrophic methanogens dominate in the prosperous microbial ecosystem. Accordingly, the high-temperature serpentinization of komatiite would provide the H2-rich hydrothermal environments that were necessary for the emergence and early evolution of life in the Hadean ocean. In contrast, H2-rich fluids may not have been generated by serpentinization at temperatures below 250 °C because carbonate minerals become more stable with decreasing temperature in the komatiite-H2O-CO2 system.