Detection of Prebiotic Molecules in Plasma and Photochemical Aerosol Analogs Using GC/MS/MS Techniques
Astrobiology, methods: analytical, planets and satellites: atmospheres, planets and satellites: composition
The formation and identification of prebiotic compounds in the organically rich atmospheres of Titan and Pluto are of great interest due to the potential implications such discoveries may have on theories of the origins of life on the early Earth. In past work, hindrances in detecting prebiotic molecules in lab-generated aerosol analogs have been the large number of products formed, often compounded by limited sample amounts. In this work, we detail a GC/MS/MS protocol that is highly selective (>30 simultaneously detectable compounds) and highly sensitive (limits of detection ∼1 picomole). Using this method to analyze aerosol analogs (tholins) generated by either cold plasma or photochemical irradiation of 1:1 mixtures of methane and carbon monoxide in nitrogen, this work has expanded the number of identifiable compounds in Titan/Pluto analog aerosols to include the nonbiological nucleobases xanthine and hypoxanthine in plasma aerosols and the first identification of glycine as a product in photochemical aerosols produced under reducing atmospheric conditions. Several species (glycine, guanidine, urea, and glycolic acid) were found to be present in both plasma and photochemical aerosols. Such parallel product pathways bring new understanding to the nature of plasma and photochemical aerosols and allow for new insights into the prebiotic chemistry of organically rich atmospheres including Pluto, Titan, and the early Earth.
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa
Sebree, Joshua A.; Roach, Madeline C.; Shipley, Emma R.; He, Chao; and Hörst, Sarah M., "Detection of Prebiotic Molecules in Plasma and Photochemical Aerosol Analogs Using GC/MS/MS Techniques" (2018). Faculty Publications. 657.