This photo simulation shows a laboratory-created "chemical garden," which is a chimney-like structure found at bubbling vents on the seafloor. Some researchers think life on Earth might have got its start at structures like these billions of years ago, partly due to their ability to transfer electrical currents -- an essential trait of life as we know it. The battery-like property of these chemical gardens was demonstrated by linking several together in series to light an LED (light-emitting diode) bulb. In this photo simulation, the bulb is not really attached to the chimney.
The chimney membranes are made of iron sulfides and iron hydroxides, geologic materials that conduct electrons.
JPL's research team is part of the Icy Worlds team of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, based at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. JPL is managed by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena for NASA.