19, Oct 2018
Prelims level : Science & Technology New Invention Mains level :
- The new study pointed out that most of the phosphorus on Earth was generated in outer space and reached Earth via meteorites and comets.
- University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researchers, in collaboration with colleagues in France and Taiwan, provide compelling new evidence that this component for life was found to be generated in outer space and delivered to Earth in its first one billion years by meteorites or comets. The team replicated interstellar icy grains coated with carbon dioxide and water, which are ubiquitous in cold molecular clouds, and phosphine.
- When exposed to ionizing radiation in the form of high-energy electrons to simulate the cosmic rays in space, multiple phosphorus oxoacids like phosphoric acid and diphosphoric acid were synthesized via non-equilibrium reactions.
- On Earth, phosphine is lethal to living beings but in the interstellar medium, an exotic phosphine chemistry can promote rare chemical reaction pathways to initiate the formation of biorelevant molecules such as oxoacids of phosphorus, which eventually might spark the molecular evolution of life as we know it.
- According to the study, phosphates and diphosphoric acid are two major elements that are essential for these building blocks in molecular biology.
- Phosphorus is a chemical element with symbol P and atomic number 15. Elemental phosphorus exists in two major forms, white phosphorus and red phosphorus, but because it is highly reactive, phosphorus is never found as a free element on Earth. It has a concentration in the Earth’s crust of about one gram per kilogram. With few exceptions, minerals containing phosphorus are in the maximally oxidized state as inorganic phosphate rocks.
- All living beings need cells and energy to replicate. Without these fundamental building blocks, living organisms on Earth would not be able to reproduce and would simply not exist. The phosphorus compounds were then incorporated in biomolecules found in cells in living beings on Earth. They are the main constituents of chromosomes, the carriers of genetic information in which DNA is found.
- Together with phospholipids in cell membranes and adenosine triphosphate, which function as energy carriers in cells, they form self-replicating material present in all living organisms.