Fixation of Nitrogen in the Prebiotic Atmosphere

Science  09 Mar 1979:
Vol. 203, Issue 4384, pp. 1002-1004
DOI: 10.1126/science.203.4384.1002


Reactions between nitrogen and water in the air surrounding lightning discharges can provide an important source of nitric oxide even under conditions where oxygen is a minor atmospheric constituent. Estimates are given for the associated source of soluble nitrite and nitrate. It is shown that lightning and subsequent atmospheric chemistry can provide a source of nitrate for the primitive ocean as large as 106 tons of nitrogen per year, sufficient to fill the ocean to its present level of nitrate in less than 106 years.