Aqueous Aerosols in Prebiotic Chemistry

  • Author: Shaun Scally
  • Published Date: 05 August 2016
  • Source / Publisher: Chemistry – A European Journal/Wiley-VCH
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
thumbnail image: Aqueous Aerosols in Prebiotic Chemistry

Related Societies

A core topic in prebiotic chemistry research is the search for plausible synthetic routes that connect the building blocks of living organisms. Albert Eschenmoser proposed the "glyoxylate scenario", in which glyoxylate and its formal dimer, dihydroxyfumarate, are key chemical starting materials of a possible metabolic system. These compounds serve as a source of the main biomonomers, such as sugars, amino acids, pyrimidines, and the constituents of the reductive tricarboxylic acid cycle (rTCAC). In this scenario, the stem compound is HCN, but as of yet, there are no examples that prove the production of glyoxylate from HCN as originally suggested by Eschenmoser.

Marta Ruiz-Bermejo and colleagues, Centro de Astrobiología, Madrid, Spain, have explored several syntheses of HCN polymers, together with statistical methods, as a step to elucidating the synthetic problem of the origin of life. They paid particular attention to the role of the aqueous aerosols. To do this, they designed a bubble-aerosol-droplet cycle for solutions of NH4CN or NaCN at pH 9.2, using an ultrasonic aerosol generator. The system was maintained at a constant temperature (38 °C) with active aerosol generation for 3 or 30 days, under atmospheric pressure or anoxic conditions (N2 atmosphere).

The synthesized HCN polymers were analyzed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The researchers identified, for the first time, glyoxylic acid in these polymers, together with some constituents of the rTCAC, amino acids, and several N-heterocycles. The findings support the "glyoxylate scenario" hypothesis and suggest that aqueous aerosols could play an important role in prebiotic chemistry.


Also of Interest


Article Views: 2585

Sign in Area

Please sign in below

Additional Sign In options

Please note that to comment on an article you must be registered and logged in.
Registration is for free, you may already be registered to receive, e.g., the newsletter. When you register on this website, please ensure you view our terms and conditions. All comments are subject to moderation.

Article Comments - To add a comment please sign in

If you would like to reuse any content, in print or online, from, please contact us first for permission. more

Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on YouTube Follow on LinkedIn Follow on Instagram RSS Sign up for newsletters

Magazine of Chemistry Europe (16 European Chemical Societies) published by Wiley-VCH