New research has found that sulphur plays a much bigger role in regulating atmospheric oxygen than previously thought, with pyrite (fools’ gold) also found to be an important process in the sulphur cycle throughout all of Earth’s history.
Sulphur has long been thought to play a secondary role in regulating atmospheric oxygen, with most of the heavy lifting done by carbon. However, new research has found that sulphur’s role may have been underestimated.
Drs Itay Halevy of the Weizmann Institute’s Environmental Science and Energy Research Department (Faculty of Chemistry), Shanan Peters of the University of Wisconsin and Woodward Fischer of the California Institute of Technology, have found that the formation and burial of a second sulfur-bearing mineral – pyrite – has apparently been much more important in regulating oxygen.
Shanan Peters said: “This is the first use of Macrostrat to quantify chemical fluxes in the Earth system.”
Woodward Fischer of the California Institute of Technology added: “For me, the truly surprising result is that pyrite weathering and burial appear to be such important processes in the sulfur cycle throughout all of Earth’s history. The carbon cycle is recognized as the central hub controlling redox processes on Earth, but our work suggests that nearly as many electrons are shuttled through the sulfur cycle.”