Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is a ubiquitous molecule in the Universe. It is a compound that is easily produced in significant yields in prebiotic simulation experiments using a reducing atmosphere. HCN can spontaneously polymerise under a wide set of experimental conditions. It has even been proposed that HCN polymers could be present in objects such as asteroids, moons, planets and, in particular, comets. Moreover, it has been suggested that these polymers could play an important role in the origin of life. In this review, the simple organics and biomonomers that have been detected in HCN polymers, the analytical techniques and procedures that have been used to detect and characterise these molecules and an exhaustive classification of the experimental/environmental conditions that favour the formation of HCN polymers are summarised. Nucleobases, amino acids, carboxylic acids, cofactor derivatives and other compounds have been identified in HCN polymers. The great molecular diversity found in HCN polymers encourages their placement at the central core of a plausible protobiological system.
The authors used the research facilities of Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) and were supported by
the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial “Esteban Terradas” (INTA) and the projects
AYA2009-13920-C02-01 of the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Spain). Also we thank the
support of the Economy and Competitivity Ministry (Project AYA2011-25720).
- HCN polymers
- Prebiotic synthesis
- amino acids
- carboxylic acids
- chromatographic techniques