Earth Science, HE 1: Earth's History (MS), HE 2: Early Earth (HS), History of Earth

Beaming Naphthalene Part 2

Amino Acids produced from the ultraviolet/extreme-ultraviolet irradiation of naphthalene in a H2O+NH3 ice mixture

SUMMARY: This experiment starts quite similarly to “Beaming Naphthalene 1”, but after exposure to UV light, researchers scraped off the residue (there was no scraping of the residue in “Beaming Naphthalene 1”), hydrolysis performed (reaction with water) and products identified with liquid chromatography. Scientists were able to identify 13 amino acids; however they were a tiny fraction of what was produced (based on the amino acid to naphthalene ratio).

LESSON COMMENTS: A good article to introduce hydrolysis and why this is relevant in trying to recreate pre-life conditions (all reactions most likely occurred in the oceans). After learning about cellular processes (especially DNA replication and protein synthesis), this article is a good opener for discussion about what came first: nucleic acids or enzymes/proteins?

Chen, Y., Nuevo, M., Yih, T., Ip, W., Fung, H., Cheng, C., . . . Wu, C. R. (2008). Amino acids produced from the ultraviolet/extreme-ultraviolet irradiation of naphthalene in a H2O NH3 ice mixture. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society,384(2), 605-610. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2007.12687.x