Researchers have discovered a new way to make molecular oxygen without the need of plants. The research could help scientists understand the Earth’s early atmosphere and how other planets filled with carbon dioxide may form oxygen.
The French Tribune reports that researchers from the University of California in Davis have found that by exposing carbon dioxide molecules to light radiation’s certain wavelengths, they can be split into carbon (C) and oxygen (O2) molecule. However, the University of California study is not the only one confirming that carbon dioxide can be converted to oxygen. Previous researches on oxygen discovered from carbon have shown that carbon dioxide (CO2) would split into carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen (O). According to those researches, it doesn’t matter what wavelengths of light were involved.
Even though scientists think plants produced most of the oxygen present on Earth, they now suspect some oxygen may have existed before photosynthetic organisms like plants arose. This according to Cheuk-Yiu Ng, a physical chemist at the University of California, Davis, and co-author of the study published today (October 2) in the journal Science.
Student Zhou Lu from University of California tells the Free Press Journal that previously people believed that the abiotic, no green plants source of molecular oxygen is CO2 + solar light. Lu used a vacuum ultraviolet laser to irradiate CO2 in the laboratory. The vacuum ultraviolet light is so-called because it has a wavelength below 200 nanometers and is typically absorbed by air. Such one-step oxygen formation could be happening now as carbon dioxide increases in the region of the upper atmosphere, where high energy vacuum ultraviolet light from the Sun hits Earth or other planets. Lu also notes that the findings could prove that oxygen is possibly formed on planets that do not have plant life, such as Venus and Mars.
This means the search for extraterrestrial life may need to be revised. Detecting oxygen in the atmosphere of another planet is now not enough to signify the presence of life. The researchers did note that the research may prove it is possible to make oxygen in space or on other planets using this technique without the need of plant life. However, scientists note that more studies are required to verify the fundamentals of how this reaction occurs.
Scientists are blowing holes in a number of long-held theories as of late. Researchers found that the “man in the moon” may not have been created by asteroid impact like previously thought.