Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The origin of life – is it in your water?

Layers of EZ (exclusion zone) water next to hydrophilic material
From Prof Gerald H Pollack's TED lecture

Sackerson recently emailed Professor Jerry Pollack with a number of questions about his discovery of light-driven exclusion zones in water. Professor Pollack’s replies were both prompt and interesting enough to prompt further posts.

Here’s one obvious possibility. Highly speculative I agree, but surely too fascinating to ignore.

Question. The H3O2 layers suggest that their construction liberates hydrogen gas. What happens to it - does it bind with dissolved oxygen in seawater? If using pure distilled water in a non-oxygen atmosphere, would it generate hydrogen gas?

Prof Pollack’s answer. We're not so sure about hydrogen has. Certainly EZ buildup generates protons. Whether those protons normally collect to form hydrogen gas remains uncertain. On the other hand, the fact that salt water bombarded with RF/microwave radiation can catch fire (see book) implies that hydrogen has could, at least under certain circumstances, be generated. One thinks also of Brown's gas.

So when light shines on water in contact with a hydrophilic surface, a proton gradient across the exclusion zone is created automatically. Now proton gradients are associated with a range of basic energy-related biochemical processes. 

The proton gradient can be used as intermediate energy storage for heat production and flagellar rotation. In addition, it is an interconvertible form of energy in active transport, electron potential generation, NADPH synthesis, and ATP synthesis/hydrolysis.

The electrochemical potential difference between the two sides of the membrane in mitochondriachloroplastsbacteria, and other membranous compartments that engage inactive transport involving proton pumps, is at times called a chemiosmotic potential or proton motive force (see chemiosmosis). In this context, protons are often considered separately using units of either concentration or pH.

Suppose we imagine Earth’s surface before life evolved. No microorganisms, no plants and certainly no animals. But there is water and sunlight. Picture a shallow pool of water in contact with a hydrophilic surface such as clay particles. As yet there are no organic compounds in the water, let alone organic life.

The sun shines down on that pool of water to create exclusion zones at the surface of the clay particles. The exclusion zones form proton gradients, a ready-made energy source for many chemical reactions.

So even before organic molecules have a chance to combine and recombine into the building blocks of life, an inexhaustible energy source may have been waiting, ready to go.

If so, then proton gradients within our biochemistry are an unimaginably ancient inheritance. Not merely from our earliest biochemistry, but before biochemistry even existed here on Earth. Before even the simplest organic molecules had begun to take advantage of the subtle properties of water.

Note. As far as I am aware, this speculative possibility has not been raised by Professor Pollack, but his work is comparatively new to me and I may be wrong.  


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Paddington said...

But certain organics can form in deep space, without water. It's all very interesting.

A K Haart said...

Paddington - true and presumably some of it could have found its way here.