Origin & Evolution of Life

The Nature Of The Spark Is A Pivotal Element In The Design Of A Miller–Urey Experiment

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
November 26, 2023
Filed under , , , , , ,
The Nature Of The Spark Is A Pivotal Element In The Design Of A Miller–Urey Experiment
The Miller-Urey experiment that was used to demonstrate the synthesis of biologically relevant molecules in a hypothetical primitive reducing atmosphere. — UCSD

Miller and Urey applied electric sparks to a reducive mixture of CH4, NH3, and water to obtain a complex organic mixture including biomolecules.

In this study, we examined the impact of temperature, initial pressure, ammonia concentration, and the spark generator on the chemical profile of a Miller–Urey-type prebiotic broth. We analyzed the broth composition using Gas Chromatography combined with Mass Spectroscopy (GC/MS).

Experiment setup.

The results point towards strong compositional changes with the nature of the spark. Ammonia exhibited catalytic properties even with non-nitrogen-containing compounds. A more elevated temperature led to a higher variety of substances.

We conclude that to reproduce such a broth as well as possible, all the studied parameters need to be tightly controlled, the most difficult and important being spark generation.

Sina Ravanbodshirazi, Timothée Boutfol, Neda Safaridehkohneh, Marc Finkler, Mina Mohammadi-Kambs and Albrecht Ott
Life 2023, 13(11), 2201; DOI: 10.3390/life13112201

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) 🖖🏻