Catalysis: Carbon Compounds

The chemistry of life as we know it relies heavily on carbon-bearing molecules and compounds and catalytic actions among these materials. Catalytic processes involving carbon compounds may serve as potential biosignatures.

Created at: 
2021-01-11
Updated at: 
2022-05-09
Curator: 
Dave Des Marais
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Definition
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Definition
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Definition
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There exist abiotic catalysis reactions with organic carbon that occur at identical speed and have the same product formation as biological carbon oxidation and oxygen gas formation. [Claire Elbon]

[Congruence, General]

Environments
Mars: Surface
e

Superoxide will decompose to hydrogen peroxide that reacts with water to produce oxygen gas (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2)


eRadiation-damaged perchlorate salts (ClO4-) release oxygen gas, and the product, hypochlorite (ClO-), reacts with amino acids.

eActive decomposition of organic species occurs in Mars analog soils by nonbiological processes.

 
 

Abiotic catalysis reactions identical to biological carbon oxidation and oxygen gas formation require external activation energy (e.g., heat, UV-radiation), extremely high volumes of reactants, or other highly specific conditions. [Claire Elbon] [Congruence, General]

Environments
Mars: Surface
e

Hydrogen peroxide does not accumulate, or survive under Martian surface conditions


eGas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) uses thermal volatilization techniques that provide a heat activation energy for perchlorates and chlorates allowing them to oxidize and chlorinate organic compounds.

ePerchlorate ion is highly unreactive and needs an energy input such as UV- radiation to oxidize compounds.

The compounds and conditions needed for abiotic catalysis reactions with organic carbon are common in extraterrestrial sites. [Claire Elbon] [Congruence]

Environments
Mars: Surface
ePerchlorate can be activated with galactic cosmic rays that bombard Mars to form chlorate anions that are significantly more reactive with carbon compounds

eMartian perchlorate or other oxychlorines are present at the original Viking landing sites and react abiotically with potentially Martian organic carbon to form chlorobenzene.

eUV-activated perchlorate accelerates the oxidation of methane to produce carbon dioxide at a rate 5x higher than without perchlorate. 

 
Definition
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CON
 

Life detection methods used to ensure abiotic conditions are often not robust enough. [Claire Elbon]

[General]

Environments
Mars: Surface
e

Mars analog soil testing in the Atacama did not match the conditions of the Mars Viking LR experiments.