Deep ocean hydrothermal vents have long been suggested as possible sources of biological molecules such as RNA and DNA but it was unclear how they could survive the high temperatures and pressures that occur round these vents.
In a study published today in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Professor Peter Coveney and colleagues at the UCL Centre for Computational Science have used computer simulation to provide insight into the structure and stability of DNA while inserted into layered minerals. Computer simulation techniques have rarely been used to understand the possible chemical pathways to the formation of early biomolecules until now.
Professor Coveney explains, “Computational grids are only now being made easy to use for scientists, enabling simulations of sufficient size to model these large biomolecule and mineral systems”.
Previous experimental studies have shown that molecules such as DNA can be inserted into minerals called layered double hydroxides (LDHs) but no one has thus far been able to show at the level of atoms and molecules how the DNA interacts with the mineral, or how the DNA might look inside the mineral layers. These minerals would have been common in the earliest age of Earth 2500 million years ago.
The simulations reproduced the high temperatures and pressures that occur around hydrothermal vents. It was shown that the structure of DNA inserted into layered minerals becomes stabilized at these conditions and therefore protected from catalytic and thermal degradation.
“Grids of supercomputers are essential for this kind of study”, says Professor Coveney, “The time taken to run these simulations is reduced from the years that a desktop computer would take, to hours by using the many thousands of processors made available across continents”.
Professor Coveney’s group has been researching into the routes to the origin of life for a number of years, studying the way that genetic information may have arisen and been replicated, as well as how small molecules may have formed, working together with colleagues at Nottingham and Durham Universities.
Gillian Sinclair | alfa
UT professor develops algorithm to improve online mapping of disaster areas
29.11.2016 | University of Tennessee at Knoxville
New standard helps optical trackers follow moving objects precisely
23.11.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy