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D. A New Method of Analyzing Rocks from Outer Space

Narrator: This is Science Today. Researchers may have discovered a new way to tell whether pieces of rock from outer space came from planets with water. Benjamin Gilbert, an earth and planetary science researcher at the University of California, Berkeley says when they shrink semiconducting materials, like zinc sulfide, down to nanoparticle size and add water, the entire crystal structure rearranges.

Gilbert: If other nanoparticles are as sensitive to water as we've shown that these zinc sulfate nanoparticles can be, then nanoparticles wherever they exist, even on this planet, or actually in other planets, their structure and properties may also be dependent on the presence of water or not.

Narrator: Gilbert says that understating how the characteristics of specific nanomaterial vary with environment could also lead to their use as sensors for evidence of metabolism on other planets.

Gilbert: One interesting idea is that the observation of nanoparticles in nature may be an indication of microorganism metabolism. So that's really the link of where the existence of life may come into the production of nanoparticles.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.