Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 131–139 | Cite as

Racemization of Valine by Impact-Induced Heating

  • Yoshihiro Furukawa
  • Atsushi Takase
  • Toshimori Sekine
  • Takeshi Kakegawa
  • Takamichi Kobayashi
Origins of Homochirality


Homochirality plays an important role in all living organisms but its origin remains unclear. It also remains unclear whether such chiral molecules survived terrestrial heavy impact events. Impacts of extraterrestrial objects on early oceans were frequent and could have affected the chirality of oceanic amino acids when such amino acids accumulated during impacts. This study investigated the effects of shock-induced heating on enantiomeric change of valine with minerals such as olivine ([Mg0.9, Fe0.1]2SiO4), hematite (Fe2O3), and calcite (CaCO3). With a shock wave generated by an impact at ~0.8 km/s, both d- and l-enriched valine were significantly decomposed and partially racemized under all experimental conditions. Different minerals had different shock impedances; therefore, they provided different P-T conditions for identical impacts. Furthermore, the high pH of calcite promoted the racemization of valine. The results indicate that in natural hypervelocity impacts, amino acids in shocked oceanic water would have decomposed completely, since impact velocity and the duration of shock compression and heating are typically greater in hypervelocity impact events than those in experiments. Even with the shock wave by the impact of small and decelerated projectiles in which amino acids survive, the shock heating may generate sufficient heat for significant racemization in shocked oceanic water. However, the duration of shock induced heating by small projectiles is limited and the population of such decelerated projectiles would be limited. Therefore, even though impacts of asteroids and meteorites were frequent on the prebiotic Earth, impact events would not have significantly changed the ee of proteinogenic amino acids accumulated in the entire ocean.


Amino acid Homochirality Shock wave Impact Enantiomer excess 



The authors appreciate anonymous reviewer for constructive comments that helped greatly improving the manuscript. This research was supported in part by grants from JSPS (Grant No. 24654176 to TS, Grant No. 24244084 to TK, Grant No. 23740402 to YF).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth ScienceTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Planetary Systems ScienceHiroshima UniversityHigashi-HiroshimaJapan
  3. 3.Center for High Pressure Science and Technology Advanced ResearchShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.National Institute for Materials ScienceTsukubaJapan

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