Photochemical synthesis of ammonia and amino acids from nitrous oxide

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Xiaofeng Zang , Yuichiro Ueno, Norio Kitadai 


Abiotic synthesis of ammonia and amino acids are important for origin of life and early evolution. Ammonia (NH3) and organic nitrogen species may be possibly produced from nitrous oxide (N2O), which is a second abundant nitrogen species in the atmosphere. Here, we report a new photochemical experiment and evaluate whether N2O can be used as a nitrogen source for prebiotic synthesis in the atmosphere. We conducted a series of experiments using a gas mixture of N2O+CO, N2O+CO2 or N2O+H2 with the presence of liquid water. The results demonstrated that NH3, methyl amine (CH3NH2) and some amino acids such as glycine, alanine and serine can be synthesized through photochemistry from N2O even without metal catalysts. NH3 can be produced not only from CO+N2O, but also from H2+N2O. Glycine can be synthesized from CH3NH2 and CO2, which can be produced from N2O and CO under UV irradiation. Our work demonstrated for the first time that N2O could be an important nitrogen source and provide a new process for synthesizing ammonia and organic nitrogen species that was not considered previously. Contribution of organic synthesis from N2O should therefore be considered when discussing the prebiotic chemistry on primitive Earth.



Life Sciences


Origin of life, Nitrogen fixation, Amino acids


Published: 2021-05-26 14:43

Last Updated: 2021-12-22 22:15

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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