Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 243–273 | Cite as

Symmetry-breaking in Chiral Polymerisation

  • Jonathan A. D. WattisEmail author
  • Peter V. Coveney


We propose a model for chiral polymerisation and investigate its symmetric and asymmetric solutions. The model has a source species which decays into left- and right-handed types of monomer, each of which can polymerise to form homochiral chains; these chains are susceptible to ‘poisoning’ by the opposite-handed monomer. Homochiral polymers are assumed to influence the proportion of each type of monomer formed from the precursor. We show that for certain parameter values a positive feedback mechanism makes the symmetric steady-state solution unstable.

The kinetics of polymer formation are then analysed in the case where the system starts from zero concentrations of monomers and chains. We show that following a long induction time, extremely large concentrations of polymers are formed for a short time, during this time an asymmetry introduced into the system by a random external perturbation may be massively amplified. The system then approaches one of the steady-state solutions described above.


autocatalysis bifurcations chiral polymerisation cross-catalysis growth kinetics symmetry-breaking 


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© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Theoretical Mechanics, School of Mathematical SciencesUniversity of NottinghamUniversity ParkU.K.
  2. 2.Centre for Computational Science, Department of ChemistryUniversity College LondonLondonU.K.

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