Organic molecules formed in a "primordial womb"

Lynda Williams, Brandon Canfield, Kenneth M. Voglesonger, John R. Holloway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Primordial organic molecules may have evolved in seafloor hydrothermal systems by mineral catalysis. Most organic compounds decompose in >300 °C vent fluid; however, we show that smectite-type clays can protect and promote development of diverse organic compounds that may be precursors to biomolecules. Smectite provides a safe haven for the synthesis of organic molecules, essentially like a "primordial womb." Our experiments simulated seafloor hydrothermal conditions (300 °C, 10 0 MPa) and reacted common clays (montmorillonite, saponite, illite) with dilute methanol as a source of C. Montmorillonite reacts under these conditions to illite, while the other clays do not change. We observed increased organic synthesis over time with montmorillonite during mineralogical reaction. Approaching equilibrium, smectite contracts and organic molecules are expelled. Organic compounds unstable in hot fluid where the smectite reacts may survive in cooler waters outside the vent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-916
Number of pages4
JournalGeology
Volume33
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2005

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smectite
montmorillonite
organic compound
clay
illite
seafloor
saponite
fluid
catalysis
hydrothermal system
methanol
mineral
experiment
water

Keywords

  • Organic synthesis
  • Seafloor hydrothermal systems
  • Smectite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology

Cite this

Williams, L., Canfield, B., Voglesonger, K. M., & Holloway, J. R. (2005). Organic molecules formed in a "primordial womb". Geology, 33(11), 913-916. https://doi.org/10.1130/G21751.1

Organic molecules formed in a "primordial womb". / Williams, Lynda; Canfield, Brandon; Voglesonger, Kenneth M.; Holloway, John R.

In: Geology, Vol. 33, No. 11, 11.2005, p. 913-916.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Williams, L, Canfield, B, Voglesonger, KM & Holloway, JR 2005, 'Organic molecules formed in a "primordial womb"', Geology, vol. 33, no. 11, pp. 913-916. https://doi.org/10.1130/G21751.1
Williams L, Canfield B, Voglesonger KM, Holloway JR. Organic molecules formed in a "primordial womb". Geology. 2005 Nov;33(11):913-916. https://doi.org/10.1130/G21751.1
Williams, Lynda ; Canfield, Brandon ; Voglesonger, Kenneth M. ; Holloway, John R. / Organic molecules formed in a "primordial womb". In: Geology. 2005 ; Vol. 33, No. 11. pp. 913-916.
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