Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2019

Document Type



The presence polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) on the primordial Earth can be attributed to carbonaceous meteorites bombarding planetary surfaces. Subsequently, the PAHs reacted with catalytic clay mineral surfaces to produce quinones that functioned as electron transporters in emergent biological systems. To address this hypothesis, we assessed the kinetics of anthracene (ANTH) conversion to 9,10-anthraquinone (ANTHQ) in the presence of montmorillonite and kaolinite clay (MONT and KAO, respectively) over the temperature range 25 to 250 oC. Apparent rates of conversion were concentration independent and displayed a sigmoidal relationship with temperature, and conversion efficiencies ranged from 0.027 to 0.066%. Conversion was not detectable in the absence of MONT or a sufficiently high oxidation potential (in this case, molecular oxygen (O2)). We also tested the respective compounds kinetics in crucibles and reaction tubes over 25, 225 and 250 oC in both a muffle furnace and oven. Based on preliminary results, rates of conversion are concentration independent and display a sigmoidal relationship with temperature. These results suggest a scenario in which meteoritic ANTH and MONT interactions could yield biologically important quinones in prebiotic planetary environments


This is a capstone project for the General Beadle Honors Program.

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