Simulation of the transport of electrolytes through the icy mantle into the ocean of a water-rich exoplanet

(ORDO NEWS) — Oceans on water-rich exoplanets could be enriched in electrolytes, including salts such as sodium chloride, according to a new study based on simulation results.

This study proves that electrolytes can be transferred to the oceans from the rocky core of such a planet, increasing the chances of such an oceanic planet for habitability.

Water-rich exoplanets and icy moons of planets exhibit conditions favorable to the possible course of biological processes.

These planets consist of a rocky core separated from the global ocean of liquid water by a high-pressure ice shell.

Disputes in the scientific community were caused by the possibility of transport of electrolytes from the rocky core to the ocean of liquid water, separated from it by a thick layer of ice.

Jean-Alexis Hernandez and colleagues used molecular dynamics simulations to investigate the possibility of electrolyte transport through ice layers and in the oceans of such planets.

Through modeling, the authors found that salts such as sodium chloride (commonly known as table salt) can be injected into high-pressure ice shells and transported along the ice layer, reaching the ocean.

The authors show that high-pressure icy mantles are not barriers to the transport of chemicals from the rocky core to liquid water oceans.

In conclusion, co-author Baptiste Journaux notes that this study “contains decisive arguments for resolving the habitability problem for planets with very massive hydrospheres.”

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