Boffins discover chemistry that could have produced building blocks of life in space | 3/5/2018 | Staff
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A team of researchers carried out a series of experiments to study how complex hydrocarbons, an important class of molecules needed to create the building blocks for life, formed in space.

Hydrocarbons, compounds made up of differing amounts of carbon and hydrogen, are common on Earth but also outside it. Some hydrocarbons, such as benzene or naphthalene, have been detected in meteorites floating around the solar system, leading scientists to wonder how they might have formed.

Paper - Nature - Astronomy - Monday - Answer

Now, a paper published in Nature Astronomy on Monday provides a possible answer. Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of California, Berkeley and Florida International University, have recreated pyrene, a hydrocarbon commonly formed during the combustion processes in car engines, in a lab.

Musahid Ahmed, co-author of the paper and a chemist at UC Berkeley, said: “Starting off from simple gases, you can generate one-dimensional and two-dimensional structures, and pyrene could lead you to 2-D graphene. From there you can get to graphite, and the evolution of more complex chemistry begins."

Mixture - Hydrocarbon - Hydrocarbon - Compound - Acetylene

A pressurised mixture of 4-phenanthrenyl - a hydrocarbon with one unpaired electron - another hydrocarbon compound acetylene were injected into a microreactor from a nozzle at supersonic speeds.

Next, a beam of UV light was directed at the gas to ionise the mixture and simulate similar conditions to those found...
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