Toward an experimental synthesis of the chondritic insoluble organic matter

Biron, K., Derenne, S., Robert, F. and Rouzaud, J.-N.

Meteoritics & Planetary Science. doi: 10.1111/maps.12477


Based on the statistical model proposed for the molecular structure of the insoluble organic matter (IOM) isolated from the Murchison meteorite, it was recently proposed that, in the solar T-Tauri disk regions where (photo)dissociation of gaseous molecules takes place, aromatics result from the cyclization/aromatization of short aliphatics. This hypothesis is tested in this study, with n-alkanes being submitted to high-frequency discharge at low pressure. The contamination issue was eliminated using deuterated precursor. IOM was formed and studied using solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance, pyrolysis coupled to gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, RuO4 oxidation, and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. It exhibits numerous similarities at the molecular level with the hydrocarbon backbone of the natural IOM, reinforcing the idea that the initial precursors of the IOM were originally chains in the gas. Moreover, a fine comparison between the chemical structure of several meteorite IOM suggests either that (i) the meteorite IOMs share a common precursor standing for the synthetic IOM or that (ii) the slight differences between the meteorite IOMs reflect differences in their environment at the time of their formation i.e., related to plasma temperature that, in turn, dictates the dissociation–recombination rates of organic fragments.