Shock Synthesis of Amino Acids in Simulated Primitive Environments

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Science  24 Apr 1970:
Vol. 168, Issue 3930, pp. 470-472
DOI: 10.1126/science.168.3930.470


A mixture of gases roughly simulating the primitive terrestrial atmosphere has been subjected to shock heating followed by a rapid thermal quench. Under strictly homogeneous conditions there is a very high efficiency of 5 x 1010 molecules per erg of shock-injected energy for production of alpha-amino acids. Calculations suggest that rapid quenching bypasses the usual thermochemical barrier. The product of energy flux and efficiency implies the unexpected conclusion that shocks occurring on atmospheric entry of cometary meteors and micrometeorites and from thunder may have been the principal energy sources for pre-biological organic synthesis on the primitive earth.

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