CRC 235 Emergence of Life

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Prebiotic Sugar Formation Under Nonaqueous Conditions and Mechanochemical Acceleration

S. Lamour 2019 Life.


S. Lamour, S. Pallmann, M. Haas, O. Trapp



Monosaccharides represent one of the major building blocks of life. One of the plausible prebiotic synthesis routes is the formose network, which generates sugars from C1 and C2 carbon sources in basic aqueous solution. We report on the feasibility of the formation of monosaccharides under physical forces simulated in a ball mill starting from formaldehyde, glycolaldehyde, DL-glyceraldehyde as prebiotically available substrates using catalytically active, basic minerals. We investigated the influence of the mechanic energy input on our model system using calcium hydroxide in an oscillatory ball mill. We show that the synthesis of monosaccharides is kinetically accelerated under mechanochemical conditions. The resulting sugar mixture contains monosaccharides with straight and branched carbon chains as well as decomposition products. In comparison to the sugar formation in water, the monosaccharides formed under mechanochemical conditions are more stable and selectively synthesized. Our results imply the possibility of a prebiotic monosaccharide origin in geochemical environments scant or devoid of water promoted by mechanochemical forces such as meteorite impacts or lithospheric activity.