Researchers have developed a new, faster separation method for identifying and quantifying “proto-oligosaccharides” in a complex mixture of molecules. Proto-oligosaccharides are plausible precursors to the oligosaccharides found in living organisms today. Studying proto-oligosaccharides can help astrobiologists understand pathways that could have led to the formation of molecules necessary for the origin of life on the early Earth.

The study, “Atmospheric Pressure Drift Tube Ion Mobility–Orbitrap Mass Spectrometry: Initial Performance Characterization,” was published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. The work was performed at the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution (CCE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. The CCE is a collaborative program supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the NASA Astrobiology Program.