An experimental study of the thermolysis of hydrogen cyanide: the role of hydrothermal systems in chemical evolution

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Villafañe Barajas, S. A., Colín García, Mª., Negrón Mendoza, A., Ruiz Bermejo, M. 2020. An experimental study of the thermolysis of hydrogen cyanide: the role of hydrothermal systems in chemical evolution. International Journal of Astrobiology 19, 5, 369 – 378 Doi: 10.1017/s1473550420000142

Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is considered a fundamental molecule in prebiotic chemistry experiments due to the fact that it could have an important role as raw material to form more complex molecules, as well as it could be an intermediate molecule in chemical reactions. However, the primitive scenarios in which this molecule might be available have been widely discussed. Hydrothermal systems have been considered as abiotic reactors and ideal niches for chemical evolution. Nevertheless, several experiments have shown that high temperatures and pressures could be adverse to the stability of organic molecules. Thus, it is necessary to carry out systematic experiments to study the synthesis, stability and fate of organic molecules in hydrothermal scenarios. In this work, we performed experiments focused on the stability and fate of HCN under a simple hydrothermal system scenario: the thermolysis of HCN at 100°C, at acidic and basic pH and in the presence of Mg-montmorillonite. Furthermore, we analysed the products from HCN thermolysis and highlighted the role of these chemical species as prebiotic molecules under a hydrothermal scenario.

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