Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 379-409

First online:

The Role of Atmospheric Aerosols in the Origin Of Life

  • Adrian TuckAffiliated withNOAA Aeronomy Laboratory

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Recent results from the real time analysis of individual aerosol particles by laser mass spectrometry have revived interest in the inverted micelle structure for aerosols containing organic molecules; indeed for many aerosols the organic content is high enough, for example ∼50% by mass in the tropical upper troposphere, that it is likely to be the only viable structure. It is pointed out that atmospheric aerosols would have had many advantages as prebiotic chemical reactors, having the potential to address several key problems in a way arising naturally from the probable geophysical and chemical environment on the prebiotic planet. Bacterial and viral size can be predicted for these structures by an equation combining atmospheric aerodynamics and gravity, and which is therefore applicable to other astronomical objects which are candidates for supporting life. Experimental tests and mathematical modelling of the early stages of the chemical evolution of aerosols should be possible.

aerosols amphiphiles membranes origin of life prebiotic atmosphere