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Chemical Analysis of Soil in the Haughton Crater Area - July 24, 2001 - The Mars Society Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station

Status Report From: Mars Society
Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Christine Jayarajah

Soil samples were analyzed using a professional soil testing outfit from LaMotte.

In order to test the pH, a distilled water extraction procedure with a flocculating reagent was used to obtain a clear liquid extract, to which a wide range indicator was added. The resulting color was matched to a color standard to determine the pH.

The Melich 1 extracting solution (an acid extracting solution composed of 0.5N hydrochloric acid and 0.025N sulfuric acid) was used to produce a clear extract (the soil filtrate) necessary for most of the tests. The filtrate was neutralized before testing for ammonia nitrogen and iron. A different extraction method was carried out to test for sulfur. Nitrate nitrogen was tested for by a cadmium reduction method which produces a red dye through a diazotization reaction. Nessler's reagent was used to test for ammonia. A diazotization reaction in which nitrite reacts with sulfanilamide was carried out to test for nitrite. Phosphorus was tested for using its reaction with molybdate and reduction with stannous chloride. A bipyridal indicator was used to test for iron at the proper pH. Sulfur was tested for using barium chloride. The results are summarized in the following table using soil samples from near the Hab (Hayne's ridge) and from the northern edge of the von Braun planitia, about 3 km northwest of the Hab (Marine rock).

Parameter Haynes Ridge Marine Rock
pH 6.7 6.8
Nitrate less then 1.25 ppm less than 1.25 ppm
Amonia almost 5 ppm slightly below 5 ppm
Nitrite much less than 0.25 ppm much less than 0.25 ppm
Phosphorous less than 7.5 ppm less than 7.5 ppm
Sulfur almost 0 ppm 0 ppm
Iron much less than 2.5 ppm much less than 2.5 ppm

Soil samples from the two above areas produced similar chemical results for the above parameters, indicating that the soil is poor in nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and iron.

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