We have found by experimental means that surfaces of chondritic meteorites catalyse Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reactions. By feeding the meteoritic samples with H2 and CO gases the typical FT products have been identified.

How simple organic matter appeared on Earth and the processes by which it transformed into more evolved organic compounds, which ultimately led to the emergence of life, is still an open topic. Different scenarios have been proposed, the main one assumes that simple organic compounds were synthesized, either in the gas phase or on the surfaces of dust grains, during the process of star formation and they were incorporated into larger bodies in the protoplanetary disk. The transformation of these simple organic compounds in more complex forms is still a matter of debate. Recent discoveries have pointed to catalytic properties of dust grains present in the early stellar envelope, which can nowadays be found in the form of chondrites. The significant infall of chondritic meteorites during the early periods of Earth suggests that the same reactions could have taken place in certain environments on the Earth’s surface, with conditions more favorable for organic synthesis.This work attempts to synthesize simple organic molecules, such as hydrocarbons and alcohols via Fischer–Tropsch-type reactions supported by different chondritic materials under early-Earth conditions, to investigate if organic synthesis can likely occur in this environment and to determine what the differences are in selectivity when using different types of chondrites. Fischer–Tropsch-type reactions are investigated from mixtures of CO and H2 at 1 atm of pressure on the surfaces of different chondritic samples. The different products obtained are analyzed in situ by gas chromatography. Different Fischer–Tropsch reaction products are obtained in quantitative amounts. The formation of alkanes and alkenes being the main processes. The formation of alcohols also takes place in a smaller amount. Other secondary products were obtained in a qualitative way. Chondritic material surfaces have been proven as good supports for the occurrence of organic synthesis. Under certain circumstances during the formation of Earth, they could have produced a suitable environment for these reactions to occur.

This work has been published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Link to the article as open access in A&A: https://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/full_html/2021/06/aa39991-20/aa39991-20.html

Link to the article as green open access: https://arxiv.org/abs/2105.08498