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2003 Annual Science Report

Arizona State University Reporting  |  JUL 2002 – JUN 2003

Organic Synthesis at High Temperature

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

We have advanced a corollary to our previously published hypothesis that degassing of seafloor basaltic magmas provides hydrogen and carbon dioxide for abiotic organic syntheses (Holloway & O’Day, 2000) by demonstrating that the same processes can operate with more silicic magmas (Holloway, submitted).

We have demonstrated that smectite clay minerals, commonly found in seafloor hydrothermal systems, provide reactive sites for synthesis of complex organic compounds such as hexamethylbenzene and long-chain methyl esters from aqueous methanol solutions (Williams, et al., 2002; Canfield, et al., 2003). This research is ongoing. We are continuing to explore synthesis of organic compounds from hydrogen and carbon dioxide in the presence of mineral catalysts at seafloor hydrothermal conditions.

We are continuing to develop novel tools for studying hydrothermal microhabitats. We are using synchrotron computed microtomography to study the physical structure of young hydrothermal chimneys from 9°N East Pacific Rise. This analysis shows a loosely connected network of euhedral mineral grains (predominantly sulfide by bulk X-ray diffraction measurements) and no channelized flow, such that the physical structure is dominated by porosity (i.e., fluid) rather than minerals. This physical structure may serve as an effective molecular sieve for the adsorption of organic compounds and bacteria from vent fluid and seawater, and provides a model for how organic compounds may accumulate on surfaces under pre-biotic conditions.

    John Holloway John Holloway
    Project Investigator
    Peggy O'Day Peggy O'Day
    Project Investigator
    S. Cary

    Eileen Dunn
    Research Staff

    Dawn Ashbridge
    Doctoral Student

    Kenneth Voglesonger
    Doctoral Student

    Objective 3.1
    Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts

    Objective 3.2
    Origins and evolution of functional biomolecules

    Objective 6.1
    Environmental changes and the cycling of elements by the biota, communities, and ecosystems