Jupiter’s satellite Europa, whose surface is composed of ice with a possible water ocean beneath, could conceivably serve as an abode for extraterrestrial life. This and other icy celestial bodies may contain organic macromolecular solid material that is produced when surface ices are exposed to ultraviolet radiation and/or electrical energy. Tidal and tectonic stresses or meteorite impacts in icy crusts may produce electrical discharges, which would provide the energy for in-situ synthesis of the organic solids. This electrical energy can be provided by positive hole charge carrier activation. Positive holes exhibit properties such as the ability to flow out of the stressed ice volume, building up electrical potential gradients and forming electrical currents.

In this study, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-doped and plain ice samples were stressed and the resulting electrical current generated was measured using an instrument capable of measuring extremely small currents or voltage levels. Small levels of electricity were observed upon stressing the samples and the results suggest that, on a larger scale during tidal or tectonic activity or meteorite impact, these currents could become substantial.


Civil Engineering | Mineral Physics | Other Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Physical Processes


Friedemann T. Freund, PhD

Lab site

SETI Institute

Funding Acknowledgement

This material is based upon work supported by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0952013. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation or the National Science Foundation. This project has also been made possible with support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The STAR program is administered by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME) on behalf of the California State University (CSU).



URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/star/101


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.