Publications

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2014
Parker, ET, Cleaves JH, Burton AS, Glavin DP, Dworkin JP, Zhou MS, Bada JL, Fernandez FM.  2014.  Conducting Miller-Urey experiments. Jove-Journal of Visualized Experiments.   10.3791/51039   AbstractWebsite

In 1953, Stanley Miller reported the production of biomolecules from simple gaseous starting materials, using an apparatus constructed to simulate the primordial Earth's atmosphere-ocean system. Miller introduced 200 ml of water, 100 mmHg of H-2, 200 mmHg of CH4, and 200 mmHg of NH3 into the apparatus, then subjected this mixture, under reflux, to an electric discharge for a week, while the water was simultaneously heated. The purpose of this manuscript is to provide the reader with a general experimental protocol that can be used to conduct a Miller-Urey type spark discharge experiment, using a simplified 3 L reaction flask. Since the experiment involves exposing inflammable gases to a high voltage electric discharge, it is worth highlighting important steps that reduce the risk of explosion. The general procedures described in this work can be extrapolated to design and conduct a wide variety of electric discharge experiments simulating primitive planetary environments.

2006
Kminek, G, Bada JL.  2006.  The effect of ionizing radiation on the preservation of amino acids on Mars. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 245:1-5.   10.1016/j.epsl.2006.03.008   AbstractWebsite

Amino acids are excellent biomarkers in the search for life on Mars because they are essential for biology as we know it and they are robust enough to survive for billions of years in the cold and dry Martian environment. However, amino acids and other organic compounds on Mars are exposed to the ionizing radiation from space and from the decay of radionuclides. This process and its role in the preservation of organic compounds has not been adequately addressed in the past. Based on measured radiolysis constants of amino acids and radiation dose estimates for Mars we show that the detection of an amino acid signature derived from an early Martian biosphere is not limited by its radiolytic decomposition as long as the amino acids are shielded adequately from space radiation. This indicates clearly the need to access the Martian subsurface in the search for molecular traces of an extinct Martian biosphere. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1999
Becker, L, Popp B, Rust T, Bada JL.  1999.  The origin of organic matter in the Martian meteorite ALH84001. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 167:71-79.   10.1016/s0012-821x(99)00014-x   AbstractWebsite

Stable carbon isotope measurements of the organic matter associated with the carbonate globules and the bulk matrix material in the ALH84001 Martian meteorite indicate that two distinct sources are present in the sample. The delta(13)C values for the organic matter associated with the carbonate globules averaged -26 parts per thousand and is attributed to terrestrial contamination, In contrast, the delta(13)C values for the organic matter associated with the bulk matrix material yielded a value of -15 parts per thousand. The only common sources of carbon on the Earth that yield similar delta(13)C values, other then some diagenetically altered marine carbonates, are C(4) plants. A delta(13)C value of -15 parts per thousand, on the other hand, is consistent with a kerogen-like component, the most ubiquitous form of organic matter found in carbonaceous chondrites such as the Murchison meteorite. Examination of the carbonate globules and bulk matrix material using laser desorption mass spectrometry (LDMS) indicates the presence of a high molecular weight organic component which appears to be extraterrestrial in origin, possibly derived from the exogenous delivery of meteoritic or cometary debris to the surface of Mars. (C) 1999 Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.