The basic molecules of life may be formed on interstellar ice---Chinese Academy of Sciences

Source:内蒙古融创实验化工有限公司 Time:2023-12-05 00:00:00 Visit:982

Some scientists suspect that amino acids hitched a ride on meteorites or asteroids to reach Earth. An amino acid called carbamate can form at extremely cold temperatures, U.S. scientists have discovered in a new study, suggesting it could potentially be produced on ice in deep space. The relevant paper was published in the American Chemical Society's "ACS Central Science" magazine published on the 29th.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are vital to life on Earth. Some scientists suspect they may have been transported to Earth by meteorites or asteroids. In fact, some amino acids, such as carbonic acid and glycine, have been found floating in space over the past few decades, but exactly how these molecules were formed remains unknown. Now, Ralph Kaiser's team at the University of Hawaii at Manoa has discovered that carbamate, a key amino acid, can be produced through reactions carried out on ice in deep space.

Carbamic acid is a simple amino acid that is a precursor to more complex compounds that occur naturally in various enzymes. To explore whether carbamic acid can be formed in extremely cold space conditions, the research team placed the reactants carbon dioxide and ammonia that form carbamic acid in a refrigerator that can drop to -268°C.

The researchers then allowed the temperature to slowly increase. When the temperature reached -211°C, carbon dioxide and ammonia reacted to form carbamic acid, providing evidence for the idea that the building blocks of life may have originated in space. They also found that ammonium carbamate is produced at -234°C. Ammonium carbamate is an intermediate product in the urea production process in the chemical industry. Urea can be formed by heating and dehydration.

Kaiser said these formation conditions are similar to what scientists see in molecular clouds around young stars and planets, and it's possible that carbamic acid and ammonium carbamate first appeared on ice in these regions. Eventually, they fall into the "embrace" of meteorites or asteroids and then travel to the solar system or other star systems.

Researchers hope these findings will help search for amino acids in space, a mission that could be accomplished by instruments such as the James Webb Space Telescope. And by finding out where these molecular precursors are and under what conditions they were formed, it is possible to predict the formation of life.
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