Scientists from Leeds University are using new technology to investigate the secrets of sea water which is billions of years old.
The sea was the birthpace of life
The hi-tech laser equipment enables researchers to analyse water which is trapped within crystals and unaffected by the geological process.
They want to find out what impact sea changes had on the first life forms on earth.
Two £900,000 laboratories have been opened in Leeds to house the new equipment.
Researchers say the pockets of water being analysed are exactly the same as they were when the rock was formed over three billion years ago.
Dr David Banks said: "The sea was the birthplace of life as we know it, where the first biological molecules and microbes formed.
"It was a major factor in limiting the levels of oxygen in the earth's early atmosphere at concentrations much lower than we have today.
"Understanding its composition at the time the first life on Earth emerged will help us learn more about how the process began and how the first forms of life came about."
Water is believed to have existed on earth more than four billion years ago but obtaining scientific samples from that time is impossible.