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Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2009, 10(5), 2304-2335; doi:10.3390/ijms10052304

Elementary Reactions and Their Role in Gas-Phase Prebiotic Chemistry

Dipartimento di Chimica, Università degli Studi di Perugia, 06123 Perugia, Italy
Received: 4 April 2009 / Revised: 13 May 2009 / Accepted: 15 May 2009 / Published: 19 May 2009
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Origin of Life)
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The formation of complex organic molecules in a reactor filled with gaseous mixtures possibly reproducing the primitive terrestrial atmosphere and ocean demonstrated more than 50 years ago that inorganic synthesis of prebiotic molecules is possible, provided that some form of energy is provided to the system. After that groundbreaking experiment, gas-phase prebiotic molecules have been observed in a wide variety of extraterrestrial objects (including interstellar clouds, comets and planetary atmospheres) where the physical conditions vary widely. A thorough characterization of the chemical evolution of those objects relies on a multi-disciplinary approach: 1) observations allow us to identify the molecules and their number densities as they are nowadays; 2) the chemistry which lies behind their formation starting from atoms and simple molecules is accounted for by complex reaction networks; 3) for a realistic modeling of such networks, a number of experimental parameters are needed and, therefore, the relevant molecular processes should be fully characterized in laboratory experiments. A survey of the available literature reveals, however, that much information is still lacking if it is true that only a small percentage of the elementary reactions considered in the models have been characterized in laboratory experiments. New experimental approaches to characterize the relevant elementary reactions in laboratory are presented and the implications of the results are discussed.
Keywords: gas-phase prebiotic chemistry; nitriles; organosulfur compounds gas-phase prebiotic chemistry; nitriles; organosulfur compounds
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Balucani, N. Elementary Reactions and Their Role in Gas-Phase Prebiotic Chemistry. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2009, 10, 2304-2335.

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