Formaldehyde (methanal, HCHO), the simplest aldehyde, is a one carbon molecule intermediary along the redox continuum between CO2 and CH4, at the same oxidation state (0) as graphite. Formaldehyde was first reported by the Russian chemist Butlerow in 1860 and was conclusively identified by von Hofmann. It exists transiently but prominently in the abiological carbon cycle (Cleaves 2008). It is an abundant interstellar molecule and is a constituent of cometary ices (Biver et al. 2002). It is readily produced in prebiotic simulation experiments from a variety of gas mixtures and energy sources.
HCHO may have played an important role in the synthesis of organic molecules relevant to the origin of life. HCHO is likely a significant precursor for the prebiotic synthesis of glycine and other amino acids (Miller 1957). HCHO can react to form sugars under basic conditions (Butlerow 1861) via the so-called formose...
KeywordsFormose Prebiotic chemistry Strecker synthesis
References and Further Reading
- Butlerow A (1861) Formation synthétique d’une substance sucrée. Compt Rendus Acad Sci 53:145–147Google Scholar
- Chandra K, De S (1983) Adsorption of formaldehyde by clay minerals in presence of urea and ammonium sulfate in aqueous system. Indian J Agric Chem 16:239–245Google Scholar
- Chang S (1993) Prebiotic synthesis in planetary environments. In: Greenberg JM, Mendoza-Gomez CX, Pirronello V (eds) The chemistry of life’s origins. Kluwer, BostonGoogle Scholar
- Ferris J (1994) The potential for prebiotic synthesis in hydrothermal systems. Orig Life Evol Biosph 24:363–381Google Scholar
- Henry L (1890) Sur le nitrile gycolique et la synthèse directe de l’acide glycolique. Compt Rendus 110:759–760Google Scholar
- Kasting J, Brown L (1998) Setting the stage: the early atmosphere as a source of biogenic compounds. In: Brack A (ed) The molecular origins of life: assembling the pieces of the puzzle. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 35–56Google Scholar
- Walker J (1964) Formaldehyde, 3rd edn. Rheinhold, New YorkGoogle Scholar