Catalytic syntheses of amino acids and their significance for nebular and planetary chemistry




Abstract– It has been intermittently debated whether some of the organic compounds we find in meteorites, which show a general relationship to interstellar precursors in their isotopic enrichments, could also be formed ab initio from simple gases in nebular and/or parent body processes. Spurred by divergent findings for the organic composition of different stones of the Tagish Lake meteorite, we studied the likelihood of Fisher Tropsch type syntheses of amino acids from CO, H2, and NH3 in the presence of different meteoritic minerals as catalysts and report that amino acids and amines can be produced efficiently under these conditions. Products differed in their molecular distribution depending on the catalyst used, with α-aminoisobutyric acid synthesized preferentially by Murchison and magnetite powders.