Alkaline hydrothermal vents in sea bed supported origin of life, says study

A recent research carried out by UCL chemists is suggesting that the hot beds in the seabed might have spontaneously produced organic molecules required for the emergence of life. During the study, scientists have come to know how surfaces of different mineral particles present inside the hydrothermal vents contain the same chemical properties found in enzymes.

For those who don’t know: Enzymes are biological molecules responsible for governing different chemical reactions in all living organisms.

So, the findings of the above-mentioned study suggest that hydrothermal vents possess the ability to produce simple carbon-based molecules like formic acid and methanol from the carbon dioxide dissolved in water.

This study explains how certain key building blocks of organic chemistry existed in nature even before life was formed and might have played an extremely important role in the formation of the first living being.


Experts are saying that the discoveries made during the study may also find practical applications in showing how fuels, plastics and other such carbon-based products can be synthesized from carbon dioxide.

Nora de Leeuw, the lead author of the study, informed that many have speculated that the hydrothermal vents are the sites where the first life on our planet emerged. She added that water has the significant amount of carbon dioxide dissolved in it; the amount, according to her, is enough for providing carbon for the formation of organic molecules required for the creation of life.

According to her, the study she and her team conducted has proved that the hydrothermal vents also contain chemical properties capable of encouraging the carbon molecules to recombine and form molecules that are usually found in living organisms.

The team of researchers carrying out this study used both supercomputer simulations and laboratory experiments; the combination of these two allowed them to investigate conditions in which mineral particles catalyze the process of conversion of carbon dioxide into organic molecules.

The experiments ably replicated conditions of the hydrothermal vents on the seabed; it is the part of the sea where slightly alkaline water filled with dissolved carbon dioxide passes through Fe3S4 or mineral greigite present on the inner walls of the vents.

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Nitin Agarwal

Nitin has a background in Electrical Engineering and is passionate about the Internet of Things. He covers how connected devices like smart homes, wearables, and industrial IoT are changing our daily lives. Nitin is also a DIY enthusiast and loves to build IoT gadgets.