My interest in prebiotic chemistry is to expand the palette of plausible geochemical energy types on the early Earth that could have facilitated the origins of life. I specifically investigate how ionizing radiation opens up new chemical possibilities that are not possible through redox- and pH-gradient chemical processes alone. My accomplishments so far include:
- Discovering the first known path for the geochemical production of formamide starting from atmospheric methane and nitrogen (forthcoming publication).
- Demonstrating that radioactive mineral deposits on the young Earth could have created uranium fission zones.
- Demonstrating that uranium fission zones create heating patterns that promote the formation of polymers and oligomers.
The Cobalt-60 gamma source at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, accessible through my colleagues at ELSI. The glass vials started out as transparent but became darkened by point-defects in the glass caused by the gamma radiation.
In the coming months, I’ll be testing a new theoretical pathway for the production of polyphosphates, and investigating the properties of novel amides and nitriles created by gamma radiolysis.