Experimental Investigation of the Formation of Formaldehyde by Hadean and Noachian Impacts

Saeka Masuda, Yoshihiro Furukawa, Takamichi Kobayashi, Toshimori Sekine, Takeshi Kakegawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Formaldehyde (FA) is an important precursor in the abiotic synthesis of major biomolecules including amino acids, sugars, and nucleobases. Thus, spontaneous formation of prebiotic FA must have been crucial for the chemical origin of life. The frequent impacts of meteorites and asteroids on Hadean Earth have been considered one of the abiotic synthetic processes of organic compounds. However, the impact-induced formation of FA from CO2 as the major atmospheric constituent has not been confirmed yet. This study investigated the formation of FA in impact-induced reactions among meteoritic minerals, bicarbonate, gaseous nitrogen, and water to simulate the abiotic process experimentally. Products were analyzed with ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry and powder X-ray diffraction techniques. The results show the formation of FA and oxidation of metallic iron to siderite in the impact shock experiments. This indicates that this important prebiotic molecule was also synthesized by impacts of iron-bearing meteorites/asteroids on the Hadean oceans. The impact events might have generated spatially and temporally FA-enriched localized environments. Moreover, the impact-induced synthesis of FA may have also occurred on Noachian Mars given the presence of liquid water and a CO2-N2-rich atmosphere on the planet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-420
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Apr


  • Early Earth
  • Early Mars
  • Meteorite impacts
  • Origin of life.
  • Prebiotic formaldehyde

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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