Origins of life

, Volume 5, Issue 1–2, pp 57–67

Catalytic reactions in the solar nebula: Implications for interstellar molecules and organic compounds in meteorites

  • Edward Anders
  • Ryoichi Hayatsu
  • Martin H. Studier
Part I/Cosmochemistry

Abstract

Organic compounds in meteorites seem to have formed by Fischer-Tropsch-type, catalytic reactions of CO, H2, and NH3 in the solar nebula, at 360–400K and (4–10)×10−6 atm. The onset of these reactions was triggered by the formation of catalytically active grains of magnetite and serpentine at these temperatures.

Laboratory experiments show that the Fischer-Tropsch reaction gives a large kineticisotope fractionation of C12/C13, duplicating the hitherto unexplained fractionation in meteorites. All of the principal compound classes in meteorites are produced by this reaction, or a variant involving a brief excursion to higher temperatures. (1) normal, mono-, and dimethylalkanes (2)arenes andalkylarenes; (3) dimericisoprenoids from C9 to C14; (4)purines andpyrimidines, such as adenine, guanine, uracil, thymine, xanthine, etc.; (5)amino acids, including tyrosine and histidine; (6)porphyrin-like pigments; (7) aromaticpolymer with −OH and −COOH groups.

These reactions may also have played a major role in the evolution of life: first, by converting carbon to a sufficiently non-volatile form to permit its accretion by the inner planets; second, by synthesizing organic compounds on the primitive planets whenever CO, H2, NH3, and clay or magnetite particles came together at the right temperature. Similar reactions in other solar nebulae may be the source of interstellar molecules, as first suggested by G. H. Herbig. Ten of the twelve polyatomic interstellar molecules have in fact been seen in these syntheses or in meteorites.

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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward Anders
    • 1
  • Ryoichi Hayatsu
    • 1
  • Martin H. Studier
    • 2
  1. 1.Enrico Fermi Institute and Dept. of ChemistryUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Argonne National LaboratoryArgonneUSA

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