1. Minerals, Organics, and the Origin of Life

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    Schematic showing the general tendency for adsorption of molecules (spheres) to increase with increasing solute concentration. Credit: Cleaves et. al., 2012

    Life is thought to have originated on Earth via processes in which organic compounds self-organized into systems which are capable of replication and exhibit natural selection. Further evolution then led to modern biochemical systems. One key to this process is thought to be mineral-organic interactions. Research into mineral-organic interfaces could help astrobiologists understand the origin of life on our planet and the potential for Earth-like life on other worlds in the Universe.

    Recently, a team of astrobiologists led by H. James Cleaves of the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science has performed an extensive review of the current state of knowledge concerning prebiotic mineral-organic interfacial processes, as well as recent advances in the study of mineral surface-organic interactions that could be relevant to understanding life’s origins on Earth. Their review, published in Chemical Society Reviews, highlights blind spots in current knowledge that could be addressed by experimental and computational approaches in future studies.