A rare group of electrons in the electron shells of calcium atoms that are thought to be crucial for life on Earth could be the missing link that could lead to life elsewhere in the solar system, according to a new study.
The calcium ions known as electron spin-ons have been proposed as a potential source of life in the universe.
Electron spin-on electrons are made up of one or more of the two basic groups of electrons: electron spin electrons and positively charged ions.
These two groups of atoms can be in equilibrium at room temperature and are thought, among other things, to provide a chemical buffer that protects life.
The ions can also be unstable, so they can undergo spontaneous changes in mass and charge, which could result in the formation of new elements.
But researchers have known about a handful of these spin-ion-containing elements, called ion spin-bond groups, that are the most common in the Earth.
Scientists have known that some of these ion spin bonds are stable in the absence of other forms of charge and have even predicted that some might exist.
But no one had yet looked for them in the form that could support life on the planet, said lead author Rene Cappelen, an astrophysicist at the University of Copenhagen.
So Cappen and his colleagues set out to see if they could see the same kind of stable ion spin bond in calcium atoms.
The team studied how calcium ions form from a stable ion Spin Bond Group, called the ion spin bond, in aqueous solutions of aqueously delivered calcium and found it to be unstable and highly reactive with the calcium, according the research.
They also discovered that this unstable ion spin group was also unstable when the ions were mixed in solutions of water and oxygen.
The researchers then applied a laser to the solution of calcium ions and measured the reaction.
They found that the reaction was unstable and would lead to the formation and accumulation of carbon dioxide and hydrogen, the two main ingredients in oxygen.
This could explain why oxygen is abundant in the earth’s atmosphere, Cappellen said.
“It’s pretty exciting to see that these very unstable ion spins can be used to produce organic compounds,” Cappella said.
A lot of this reaction is due to the calcium ions having very low atomic numbers and the calcium ion spin bonding has low resistance to heat.
“This means that the ions have to work extremely hard to form this very reactive bonding, and they have a lot of energy,” Cappsellen added.
“If you can’t keep these ions at room temperatures, they go to the bottom of the ocean.”
The scientists found that if they mixed in water or oxygen and heated the calcium and the other ion spin atoms, they could generate oxygen.
And the oxygen would release the calcium.
But the calcium atoms would have a hard time leaving the solution.
The calcium ions were able to break the bond and escape from the solution, the team found.
The finding may help explain why the planet has a complex chemical makeup, Cappselen said, noting that it is the chemistry of the oceans that makes up most of the life on earth.
The work was published in the journal Nature Communications.