We have an upcoming workshop at ELSI on November 9-11, 2016, organised by Laurie Barge (JPL) and Bethany Theiling (University of Tulsa).
Inorganic metal conformational catalysts must have appeared very early on in the emergence of bioenergetics, perhaps originating from semiconducting minerals in the early Earth environment to mediate geochemical redox and pH gradients. Submarine hydrothermal vents, produced by magmatic activity (e.g., black smokers) or water-rock interaction (e.g., serpentinite-hosted alkaline vents), generate large (electro)chemical disequilibria in the form of Eh/pH gradients - thought to be significant in driving life's emergence and sustaining it on wet and icy worlds - all significant factors in planetary habitability studies. Particular hydrothermal minerals are well known electrocatalysts and electron transfer agents that have been shown to facilitate prebiotic organic reactions. Even in modern hydrothermal systems, precipitation of electrocatalytic minerals in hydrothermal chimneys can act as electrodes to drive redox chemistry. Understanding the geo-electrochemistry of prebiotic environments such as hydrothermal vents as well as the electron transfer mechanisms of early life can inform origin of life laboratory work, e.g. incorporating electrochemical technologies into prebiotic reactor setups. This workshop will gather experts in bioelectrochemistry, geochemistry, electrochemistry, and experimental origin of life work, to understand the geochemical and biochemical nature of the first electron transfer processes.
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