Before there was life on Earth, there had to be reactive organic molecules. Iron-rich nanoparticles from meteorites and volcanoes may have CO . conversion catalyst2 on the early Earth into such molecules, according to researchers in Germany.
The team mimicked early Earth deposits using particles from crushed meteorites and volcanic ash. The experiments also reproduced the hot conditions at the time (150–300°C), at pressures higher than 10–50 bar, and in dry or humid climates.
CO . catalyst particles2 converted in the presence of natural minerals and atmospheric H2 or THEY2O in the laboratory, produces aldehydes, alcohols and hydrocarbons under a variety of conditions.
“We’ve seen the formation of a lot of these oxidation products,” says Oliver Trapp, a chemist at Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich who led the study. ‘We have lots of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and both methanol and ethanol, as well as long and branched alkanes.’
The formation of oxidizing compounds is interesting, as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde are important building blocks for carbohydrates, amino acids and nucleic acids. The team estimated that 6×108 kg/year of prebiotic organic matter that can be generated from atmospheric CO2 during the Hadean aeon – about 4.5 billion years ago when large amounts of CO2 is likely to be released into the atmosphere, along with hydrogen and water vapor.
Experiments show that hydrocarbon formation is more favorable at higher temperatures, but oxygen-containing organic compounds are produced more efficiently when the temperature is reduced to 150°C.
‘Previously, there was no explanation for the large amount of CO2 in the early atmosphere could have been converted to active organic compounds,” Trapp said, adding that large amounts of meteorites and reduced metals reached the early Earth, producing hydrogen. , while catalysis in the atmosphere and on the surface converted CO2 into organic compounds fairly rapidly, perhaps within 20–100 million years. ‘Billions of tons of materials have been produced. That means all CO2 Trapp said the gas escaping from the early Earth’s surface was essentially converted to organic matter. ‘This goes beyond almost any industrial process we can think of.’
Previously, there was no explanation for the large amount of CO .2 in the early atmosphere could have been converted into active compounds
astrobiologist Jessica Weber at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, USA, who was not involved in the study, drawing attention to the complexities of chemistry with and without life. ‘The biological and non-biological worlds are very different. Life has already taken over the Earth and any non-biological material created today would be eaten up quickly by life,” she said. ‘It’s not surprising that we don’t see chemistry like this now.’
Jim Cleaves, a researcher at the Institute of Earth Life Sciences in Tokyo, Japan, said we are now ‘ashamed of the wealth in the way you can make organic compounds. This is another issue to consider.’ But a big mystery remains: ‘One big problem is: okay, you have organic matter, but how do you put them together to make a living organism. The community is still stuck on that,’ he added.
Trapp thinks he has the answer to the first step: aldehyde activation could lead to the formation of the catalysts that essentially became the first photosynthetic system, he suggests. This is based on his lab’s previous investigations with the organic catalyst imidazolidine-4-thione. The most active and selective people can create their own building blocks, powered by sunlight, creating a kind of Darwinian evolution at the molecular level.