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Formation of Thiophene under Simulated Volcanic Hydrothermal Conditions on Earth - Implications for Early Life on Extraterrestrial Planets?

T. Geisberger 2021 Life


Thomas Geisberger, Jessica Sobotta, Wolfgang Eisenreich, and Claudia Huber



Thiophene was detected on Mars during the Curiosity mission in 2018. The compound was even suggested as a biomarker due to its possible origin from diagenesis or pyrolysis of biological material. In the laboratory, thiophene can be synthesized at 400 °C by reacting acetylene and hydrogen sulfide on alumina. We here show that thiophene and thiophene derivatives are also formed abiotically from acetylene and transition metal sulfides such as NiS, CoS and FeS under simulated volcanic, hydrothermal conditions on Early Earth. Exactly the same conditions were reported earlier to have yielded a plethora of organic molecules including fatty acids and other components of extant metabolism. It is therefore tempting to suggest that thiophenes from abiotic formation could indicate sites and conditions well-suited for the evolution of metabolism and potentially for the origin-of-life on extraterrestrial planets.