Cavitation-Induced Synthesis of Biogenic Molecules on Primordial Earth

Natan Haim Kalson, David Furman, Yehuda Zeiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite decades of research, how life began on Earth remains one of the most challenging scientific conundrums facing modern science. It is agreed that the first step was synthesis of organic compounds essential to obtain amino acids and their polymers. Several possible scenarios that could accomplish this step, using simple inorganic molecules, have been suggested and studied over the years. The present study examines, using atomistic reactive molecular dynamics simulations, the long-standing suggestion that natural cavitation in primordial oceans was a dominant mechanism of organic molecule synthesis. The simulations allow, for the first time, direct observation of the rich and complex sonochemistry occurring inside a collapsing bubble filled with water and dissolved gases of the early atmosphere. The simulation results suggest that dissolved CH4 is the most efficient carbon source to produce amino acids, while CO and CO2 lead to amino acid synthesis with lower yields. The efficiency of amino acid synthesis also depends on the nitrogen source used (i.e., N2, NH3) and on the presence of HCN. Moreover, cavitation may have contributed to the increase in concentration of NH3 in primordial oceans and to the production and liberation of molecular O2 into the early atmosphere. Overall, the picture that emerges from the simulations indicates that collapsing bubbles may have served as natural bioreactors in primordial oceans, producing the basic chemical ingredients required for the beginning of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1041-1049
Number of pages9
JournalACS Central Science
Volume3
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 27 Sep 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering

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