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2006 Annual Science Report

Pennsylvania State University Reporting  |  JUL 2005 – JUN 2006

Chemical Investigations of Hydrogen Cyanide Polymers and Their Possible Role in the Origin of Protein/Nucleic Acid Based Life (Minard)

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

Hydrogen cyanide is observed in protoplanetary systems, comets, the atmosphere of Jupiter and Saturns’s moon Titan. It is known to polymerize spontaneously to complex heterogeneous polymers that yield amino acids and nucleobases on contact with water and therefore probably played a major role in the origin of protein/nucleic acid based life as we know it on Earth.

We continue our research on the preparation and analysis of HCN polymers in order to further collaborative research in the following areas:

  1. Elucidation of the complex structure of HCN polymer (collaboration with C.N. Matthews and J. Herzfeld)
  2. HCN polymers in comets (collaborations with N. Fray, N. Quirico, and F. Robert)
  3. Isotopic fractionation during HCN polymerization. (with J. Purnell and R. Court)
  4. The effect of HCN polymers on the formation of lipid vesicles. (with M. Hanczyc)
  5. The likely presence of HCN polymer in Titan’s atmospheric aerosols (with C.N. Matthews)

Conference presentations:

  1. Poster presentation at AbSciCon 2006 (Washington D.C. March 26-30) on HCN polymer chemistry.
  2. Oral and poster presentations at Royal Society of Chemistry Faraday Discussion 133 (Chemical Evolution in the Universe, Brittany France, April 24-26, 2006) “ Hydrogen cyanide polymers, comets and the origin of Life.” Paper will appear in Faraday Discuss., 133.
  3. Poster presentation, “Hydrogen Cyanide Polymers on Titan” at the Origin of Life Gordon Research Conference, Bates College, July 23-27, 2006.