CRC 235 Emergence of Life

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Synthesis of prebiotic organics from CO2 by catalysis with meteoritic and volcanic particles

S. Peters 2023 Scientific Reports


Sophia Peters, Dmitry A. Semenov, Rupert Hochleitner & Oliver Trapp

Scientific Reports


The emergence of prebiotic organics was a mandatory step toward the origin of life. The significance of the exogenous delivery versus the in-situ synthesis from atmospheric gases is still under debate. We experimentally demonstrate that iron-rich meteoritic and volcanic particles activate and catalyse the fixation of CO2, yielding the key precursors of life-building blocks. This catalysis is robust and produces selectively aldehydes, alcohols, and hydrocarbons, independent of the redox state of the environment. It is facilitated by common minerals and tolerates a broad range of the early planetary conditions (150–300 °C, ≲ 10–50 bar, wet or dry climate). We find that up to 6 × 108 kg/year of prebiotic organics could have been synthesized by this planetary-scale process from the atmospheric CO2 on Hadean Earth.