A plausibly prebiotic synthesis of phosphonic acids.
ABSTRACT The insolubility of calcium phosphate in water is a significant stumbling block in the chemistry required for the origin of life. The discovery of alkyl phosphonic acids in the Murchison meteorite suggests the possibility of delivery of these water-soluble, phosphorus-containing molecules by meteorites or comets to the early Earth. This could have provided a supply of organic phosphorus for the earliest stages of chemical evolution; although probably not components of early genetic systems, phosphonic acids may have been precursors to the first nucleic acids. Here we report the synthesis of several phosphonic acids, including the most abundant found in the Murchison meteorite, by ultraviolet irradiation of orthophosphorous acid in the presence of formaldehyde, primary alcohols, or acetone. We argue that similar reactions might explain the presence of phosphonic acids in Murchison, and could also have occurred on the prebiotic Earth.
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ABSTRACT: The combination of ion chromatography (IC) and inductively coupled plasma emission spectroscopy (ICP-ES) was used forthe sensitive and specific detection of hypophosphite (PO2), phosphite (PO3), methylphosphonic acid (MPA), and phosphate (PO4). Application of this technique to a wide range of environmental samples proved that reduced phosphorus was present in some situations including process water from thermal phosphorus plants, drinking water contacting cast iron, and phosphorus corrosion inhibitor used in water treatment and in sewage wastewater. Preliminary testing did not detect high concentrations of reduced phosphorus and phosphine in situations where it was previously reported to be very important, including anaerobic digesters in wastewater treatment plants. The new IC-ICP-ES technique is a promising tool for use in corrosion and soil research where phosphites are likely to be present.Environmental Science and Technology 07/2005; 39(12):4369-76. · 5.23 Impact Factor