Shock wave synthesis of amino acids from solutions of ammonium formate and ammonium bicarbonate

Chizuka Suzuki, Yoshihiro Furukawa, Takamichi Kobayashi, Toshimori Sekine, Hiromoto Nakazawa, Takeshi Kakegawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The emergence of life's building blocks, such as amino acids and nucleobases, on the prebiotic Earth was a critical step for the beginning of life. Reduced species with low mass, such as ammonia, amines, or carboxylic acids, are potential precursors for these building blocks of life. These precursors may have been provided to the prebiotic ocean by carbonaceous chondrites and chemical reactions related to meteorite impacts on the early Earth. The impact of extraterrestrial objects on Earth occurred more frequently during this period than at present. Such impacts generated shock waves in the ocean, which have the potential to progress chemical reactions to form the building blocks of life from reduced species. To simulate shock-induced reactions in the prebiotic ocean, we conducted shock-recovery experiments on ammonium bicarbonate solution and ammonium formate solution at impact velocities ranging from 0.51 to 0.92 km/s. In the products from the ammonium formate solution, several amino acids (glycine, alanine, ß-alanine, and sarcosine) and aliphatic amines (methylamine, ethylamine, propylamine, and butylamine) were detected, although yields were less than 0.1 mol % of the formic acid reactant. From the ammonium bicarbonate solution, smaller amounts of glycine, methylamine, ethylamine, and propylamine were formed. The impact velocities used in this study represent minimum cases because natural meteorite impacts typically have higher velocities and longer durations. Our results therefore suggest that shock waves could have been involved in forming life's building blocks in the ocean of prebiotic Earth, and potentially in aquifers of other planets, satellites, and asteroids. Key Points: Shock-induced reactions formed amino acids from ammonium formate solution Glycine was the sole amino acid formed from ammonium bicarbonate solution Prebiotic impacts might have converted low mass compounds into biomolecules

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2382-2394
Number of pages13
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Volume16
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jul 1

Keywords

  • amino acid
  • early Earth
  • impacts
  • meteorite
  • shock wave

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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