TEM study of a silicate-carbonate-microbe interface prepared by focused ion beam milling
The biogeochemical alteration of an Mg-Fe orthopyroxene, reacted for 70 yr under and conditions in a desert environment, was Studied by transmission electron microscopy. For this purpose, an electron transparent cross-section of the interface between a single microorganism, an orthopyroxene and nanometersized calcite crystals, was prepared with a focused ion beam system. X-ray energy dispersive spectrometry and electron energy loss spectroscopy allowed one to clearly distinguish the microorganism en route to fossilization from the nanometer-sized calcite crystals, showing the usefulness of such a protocol for identifying unambiguously traces of life in rocks. A 100-nm-deep depression was observed in the orthopyroxene close to the microorganism, suggesting an enhanced dissolution mediated by the microbe. However, an Al- and Si-rich amorphous altered layer restricted to the area just below the microorganism could be associated with decreased silicate dissolution rates at this location, suggesting complex effects of the microorganism on the silicate dissolution process. The close association observed between silicate dissolution and carbonate formation at the micrometer scale suggests that Urey-type CO2 sequestration reactions could be mediated by microorganisms under and conditions. Copyright (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd.