Origin & Evolution of Life

Organic Chemistry In A CO2 Rich Early Earth Atmosphere

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
May 20, 2018
Filed under
Organic Chemistry In A CO2 Rich Early Earth Atmosphere
Early Earth

The emergence of life on the Earth has required a prior organic chemistry leading to the formation of prebiotic molecules. The origin and the evolution of the organic matter on the early Earth is not yet firmly understood.

Several hypothesis, possibly complementary, are considered. They can be divided in two categories: endogenous and exogenous sources. In this work we investigate the contribution of a specific endogenous source: the organic chemistry occurring in the ionosphere of the early Earth where the significant VUV contribution of the young Sun involved an efficient formation of reactive species. We address the issue whether this chemistry can lead to the formation of complex organic compounds with CO2 as only source of carbon in an early atmosphere made of N2, CO2 and H2, by mimicking experimentally this type of chemistry using a low pressure plasma reactor. By analyzing the gaseous phase composition, we strictly identified the formation of H2O, NH3, N2O and C2N2.

The formation of a solid organic phase is also observed, confirming the possibility to trigger organic chemistry in the upper atmosphere of the early Earth. The identification of Nitrogen-bearing chemical functions in the solid highlights the possibility for an efficient ionospheric chemistry to provide prebiotic material on the early Earth.

Benjamin Fleury, Nathalie Carrasco, Maeva Millan, Ludovic Vettier, Cyril Szopa
(Submitted on 18 May 2018)

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Journal reference: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Elsevier, 2017, 479, pp.34-42
DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2017.09.026
Cite as: arXiv:1805.07347 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1805.07347v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Nathalie Carrasco
[v1] Fri, 18 May 2018 17:57:42 GMT (2426kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻