Schreibersite on the Early Earth: Scenarios for Prebiotic Phosphorylation

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Phosphorus, Hadean, Meteorites, Thermodynamics, Origin of life, Prebiotic chemistry

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The mineral schreibersite, (Fe,Ni)3P, provides a reactive source of phosphorus capable of forming phosphorylated molecules. These molecules may have been an important component of prebiotic chemistry, allowing their build-up and eventual commencement of autopoiesis. Discussed here are potential geochemical routes to providing schreibersite, as a potentially important prebiotic mineral, to the Hadean Earth. Two routes are identified: delivery of phosphides by meteoritic material and the reduction of phosphates to phosphides by high-temperature, low-redox conditions. About 1–10% of all crustal phosphorus is estimated to have been in schreibersite during the Hadean, making the long-term reaction of this mineral with organic-laden water plausible for many years. Ultimately, such conditions would have been conducive to the formation of life as we know it today.

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Geoscience Frontiers, v. 8, no. 2, p. 329-335.

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