The geyser hypothesis: Prebiotic synthesis of nucleobases in water microdroplets

Name of applicant

Michael Martin Nielsen


Postdoctoral Fellow


Harvard University


DKK 1,474,986



Type of grant

Reintegration Fellowships


The synthesis of complex organic molecules on the prebiotic Earth is a fundamental requirement for the origin of life. In this project, I will study the synthesis of nucleobases in water microdroplets from simple chemicals that were abundant on the early Earth with the goal of shedding light on the general significance of water microdroplets in prebiotic chemistry.


Recent studies show that water microdroplets are a unique reaction environment in chemistry. However, the prebiotic relevance of microdroplets remains largely unexplored. If it can be proven that nucleobase synthesis occurs spontaneously in water microdroplets, it would revolutionize our understanding of prebiotic chemistry as this process could be important for other compound classes.


Geysers are significant generators of water microdroplets. This project aims to study chemistry in water microdroplets by simulating a geyser by pneumatically spraying aqueous solutions of simple chemicals into an atmosphere resembling that of the early Earth. The experimental setup will allow for fine-tuning of reaction parameters and continuous monitoring of reaction products.

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