Redox metals such as Fe, Mo, V, Ni, Cu and Mn, supplied from deep-sea interfaces, played a pivotal role in the coupled evolution of Earth's biogeochemical cycles and life. Accordingly, future search for life in Ocean Worlds of the Solar System will greatly benefit from going beyond parameters such as water and organics, and being able to detect signs of subsurface metal catalysis. As fundamental metabolism requires metal clusters and nanoparticles; their formation, detection and link to Earth’s ocean biogeochemical structure can pave the way for inference of metal catalysis from plume ejecta compositions of Ocean Worlds such as Europa and Enceladus. DeepTrace will advance a ground-breaking mechanistic, analytical and predictive framework on the nanoparticle-fuelled co-mobilization of catalyst metals across Earth's marine redox interfaces. The key idea is to establish the concept of sub-ocean metal redox catalysis underpinning the ecosystem evolution of Earth’s oceans and use it to explore habitability of Ocean Worlds. In DeepTrace we will conduct multidisciplinary sea expeditions to unravel how the six redox metals co-mobilize by studying Earth analogues such as deep-sea hydrothermal vents and suboxic/anoxic seas. Integrating state-of-the-art methods with emerging innovative approaches such as time-of-flight single-particle-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, we will advance the multi-element detection of nanoparticles. Finally, to build a predictive framework that will enable the estimation of nanoparticle fluxes from deep-sea boundaries and inferring the metabolic potential of Ocean Worlds, we will develop novel biogeochemical models. DeepTrace will tap the potential of tracing redox metals as one of best opportunities in the next decade for detecting life in Ocean Worlds, and accelerate improved parametrizations of metal cycles for better prediction of Earth’s marine ecosystems under multi-stressors such as deoxygenation, warming and biodiversity loss.
Fields of science
- natural sciencesphysical sciencesastronomyplanetary sciencesnatural satellites
- natural sciencesbiological sciencesecologyecosystems
- natural scienceschemical sciencescatalysis
- engineering and technologynanotechnologynano-materials
- natural sciencesearth and related environmental sciencesgeochemistrybiogeochemistry
- HORIZON.1.1 - European Research Council (ERC) Main Programme