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  • Writer's pictureJuan Cabrera

"Decoding Life's Blueprint: Unveiling the Role of Natural Resources in Earth's Genesis"

An international team of researchers has employed innovative X-ray spectroscopy technology to investigate the origins of life on Earth, specifically focusing on the role of natural resources such as water and urea in pre-biotic conditions. The research, led by the Tohoku University’s International Centre for Synchrotron Radiation Innovation Smart (SRIS), included contributions from scientists at the University of Geneva, ETH Zurich, and the University of Hamburg.

Scientists hypothesise that during Earth's early stages, natural resources such as water and urea played a pivotal role in the development of life. The planet's then less dense atmosphere and the high-energy space radiation ionised molecules in small water puddles containing urea, an organic compound necessary for forming nucleo bases. This ionisation, researchers believe, could have led to the conversion of urea into the foundational building blocks of life: DNA and RNA.

The team used a cutting-edge X-ray spectroscopy approach and a sub-micron liquid flat-jet to precisely observe these chemical reactions in natural resources like water with unprecedented accuracy. The technology allowed them to examine intricate changes in urea molecules at a femtosecond level, a unit of time equivalent to one quadrillionth of a second.

This research moves us closer to understanding how natural resources might have contributed to the genesis of life on Earth. Previous investigations focused on the gas phase, but this team expanded the study into the aqueous environment - the natural setting for biochemical processes - using a device that could generate an ultra-thin liquid jet in a vacuum.

Besides offering insights into the role of natural resources in the beginnings of life, this work also opens new avenues in the field of attochemistry. This area of study focuses on chemical reactions at incredibly short timescales. The new technology allows scientists to track each step of the process, providing a sort of 'molecular movie' of chemical reactions.



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