Organic Synthesis in Experimental Impact Shocks

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Science  18 Apr 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5311, pp. 390-392
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5311.390

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Laboratory simulations of shocks created with a high-energy laser demonstrate that the efficacy of organic production depends on the molecular, not just the elemental composition of the shocked gas. In a methane-rich mixture that simulates a low-temperature equilibrium mixture of cometary material, hydrogen cyanide and acetylene were produced with yields of 5 × 1017 molecules per joule. Repeated shocking of the methane-rich mixture produced amine groups, suggesting the possible synthesis of amino acids. No organic molecules were produced in a carbon dioxide–rich mixture, which is at odds with thermodynamic equilibrium approaches to shock chemistry and has implications for the modeling of shock-produced organic molecules on early Earth.

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