Photochemical Production of Formaldehyde in Earth's Primitive Atmosphere

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Science  10 Oct 1980:
Vol. 210, Issue 4466, pp. 183-185
DOI: 10.1126/science.210.4466.183


Formaldehyde could have been produced by photochemical reactions in Earth's primitive atmosphere, at a time when it consisted mainly of molecular nitrogen, water vapor, carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of molecular hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Removal of formaldehyde from the atmosphere by precipitation can provide a source of organic carbon to the oceans at the rate of 1011 moles per year. Subsequent reactions of formaldehyde in primeval aquatic environments would have implications for the abiotic synthesis of complex organic molecules and the origin of life.