SUPERBIOL Origin of life: generation prebiotic molecules in controlled chemical reactions on mineral surfaces
Dr. Miguel Angel Niño
Funding : Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad. Programa Excelencia 2013-2016. Explora Ciencia 2013. MAT-49893-EXP
Duration: 2014 - 2015
The sulfur-iron world is a hypothesis about the origin of life proposing that a pioneer organism, from which extant life was spawned, was generated from simple chemical reactions on the surfaces of iron sulfides mineral particles. Both these substrate particles and the reactive
gases might have been produced in specific environments (such as thermal vents near volcanic craters). This project intends to analyse the feasibility of studying prebiotic chemical reactions by means of spectroscopic and desorption techniques; this approach allows analysing at the atomic scale, and under a broad range of pressures and temperatures, both intermediate adsorbed species and the products of the surmised prebiotic reactions. The central role of surfaces in this theory suggests that much could be gained by using the methodology and the techniques of Surface Science. This implies a radical departure from the experimental strategy used before (the conventional chemical reactors in which the surfaces were reacting in a liquid medium), using instead the methodology of research on heteregoneous catalysis.