Juan Manuel García-Ruiz, of the University of Granada's Laboratory of Crystallographic Studies, will deliver a seminar entitled, "Mineral Self-Assembly in a Lifeless Planet: Its Relation to Primitive Life Detection and Prebiotic Chemistry." Hosted by Bart Kahr.
For more information about the speaker, click here.
Abstract: Ubiquitous as life is today, and as it was during most of its geological history, Earth was once devoid of life. There are two main problems to investigate the early, lifeless stage of our planet. First, there are no rocks remnants from the first five hundred millions of years of the history of the Earth (the Hadean eon). Second, the impact of life on the geochemistry of the planet has been and is so high that we cannot use actualism to reveal the chemistry prevailing during that early age of the planet. Based on the last available information regarding the Hadean, it seems most probable that water condenses on the surface of the Earth soon after solidification of its first ultramafic crust. The thermally-driven interaction between water and ultramafic minerals – serpentinization – created an alkaline, silica-rich, and rather reduced hydrosphere, provoking the formation of complex organic compounds. I propose that this global geochemical scenario triggered also the formation of silica-based self-assembled mineral structures that had a significant role in the transition from inorganic geochemistry to organic chemistry, and ultimately to the origin of life itself. I will discuss in the talk i) the fundamentals of mineral self-assembly, ii) its geochemical plausibility and iii) its role in the problem of primitive life detection and in catalyzing the formation of biochemically relevant prebiotic compounds.