The water bodies on water-rich exoplanets may be endowed with electrolytes containing salts such as sodium chloride, which indicates a modeling study published in Nature Communications. The research proposes electrolytes can be transferred from the rocky core of these planets and may possess implications for the potential habitability of these ocean worlds.
Water-rich exoplanets and icy moons have convincing environments for biological processes to occur. The planets are constructed of a rocky core segregated from the liquid water by a high-pressure ice shell. It has been discussed whether the transport of electrolytes from the rocky body towards the liquid ocean is hampered by the ice shell.
Jean-Alexis Hernandez and colleagues utilized molecular dynamics imitations and thermodynamic modeling to examine how electrolytes could be transported from the ice layer and the ocean on these planets. The authors discovered that salts, like sodium chloride, could be assimilated in the high-pressure ice shells and transferred through the ice into the ocean. They debate that this demonstrates that high-pressure ice mantles may not perform as chemical barriers between rocky cores and liquid water oceans.
Writing from an accompanying Comment, Baptiste Journaux indicates that the study “offers the most convincing argument yet in resolving the dilemma of large planetary hydrosphere habitability.”