Synchronized chaotic targeting and acceleration of surface chemistry in prebiotic hydrothermal microenvironments
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Porous mineral formations near subsea alkaline hydrothermal vents embed microenvironments that make them potential hot spots for prebiotic biochemistry. But, synthesis of long-chain macromolecules needed to support higher-order functions in living systems (e.g., polypeptides, proteins, and nucleic acids) cannot occur without enrichment of chemical precursors before initiating polymerization, and identifying a suitable mechanism has become a key unanswered question in the origin of life. Here, we apply simulations and in situ experiments to show how 3D chaotic thermal convection-flows that naturally permeate hydrothermal pore networks-supplies a robust mechanism for focused accumulation at discrete targeted surface sites. This interfacial enrichment is synchronized with bulk homogenization of chemical species, yielding two distinct processes that are seemingly opposed yet synergistically combine to accelerate surface reaction kinetics by several orders of magnitude. Our results suggest that chaotic thermal convection may play a previously unappreciated role in mediating surface-catalyzed synthesis in the prebiotic milieu.
author list (cited authors)
Priye, A., Yu, Y., Hassan, Y. A., & Ugaz, V. M.