The relevance of mechanochemical reactivity in the prebiotic chemical evolution and its transfer to sustainable and low-emission chemical production
The project proposal focuses on the research of mechanochemistry as a synthetic alternative for the formation of important biomolecules such as amino acids, sugars, nucleotides, and nucleosides in prebiotic chemical evolution. The project will focus specifically on the chemical reactions that cause controversy among scientists involved in the study of the origin of life and prebiotic evolution; for example, reactions that are thermodynamically unfavorable in solution, such as polymerization of amino acids to peptides, synthesis of complex saccharides, nucleosides, or nucleotides. Also, we will study the reactions where the acceptable prebiotic reactants are insoluble, as is the case with phosphorylation reactions. We will mainly use milling in ball mills, with the addition of adequate prebiotic minerals as catalysts and potentially small amounts of water or dissolved salts. Additionally, the mechanochemical processes generated by milling with high-voltage electrical discharges will be examined, for which a specialized and unique reactor will be built. In these reactions, which may be considered as an extension of the Miller-Urey experiment (Science, 1953, 528), we will study the effect of mechanical forces on gaseous reactions (simple gases) or simple organic molecules on the surface of minerals (added as catalysts), with high-voltage electrical devices and light irradiation.The planned reactions will be monitored in situ by established techniques such as Raman spectroscopy and diffraction on polycrystalline samples during milling, and also by newly developed techniques such as electron spin spectroscopy or infrared spectroscopy. Based on the acquired knowledge of the effect of mineral additives and irradiation for the mechanochemical synthesis of essential biomolecules, the acquired knowledge will be applied to the development of the green synthesis of chosen valuable chemical compounds, scaled to gram- or pilot scale.