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Molecular Astrobiology Lab

The search for life in our solar system is based on understanding analogous environments on Earth that may have hosted the emergence of life. Thus, the question of the origin of life is, fundamentally, a geochemical question to determine the environmental habitability (i.e., minimum requirements for life): an aqueous environment, available molecular building blocks for life, and a source of environmental energy. Submarine hydrothermal environments meet these geochemical requirements and may have hosted the emergence of life on Earth. Analogous environments may exist on other solar system bodies such as Mars and Europa.

The Molecular Astrobiology Lab at CSUEB was established with a grant from the NASA Planetary Major Equipment Program. Our current research program, funded by the NASA Astrobiology Program (Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology) is entitled Measurement of Partial Molal Heat Capacities and Volumes of Aqueous Organic Compounds.

Our major equipment includes two Anton Paar vibrating tube densimeters that are used to measure the densities/volumes of fluids at elevated temperatures and pressures. The Anton Paar DMA 5000 permits high precision measurements of fluid densities (±0.00005 g/cm3) at temperatures 0-90 °C and pressures 1-10 bars. The DMA HP permits measurements of densities (±0.0001 g/cm3) at a wide range of temperatures (-10 to 200 °C) and pressures (1-700 bars).

We are determining the volumetric properties of aqueous organic mixtures at elevated temperatures and pressures (comparable to the environmental conditions in hydrothermal systems). The aim of our research is to experimentally measure properties of molecules fundamental to biological processes. Determining the thermodynamic properties of simple organic compounds is needed to understand the potential for their abiotic formation and to develop an accurate chemical model for the origin of life.

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Recent Presentations and Publications

Bennett B. F., Schulte M. D., and Seitz J. C. (2010) Determination of the Partial Molal Heat Capacities of Dilute D-glucose at elvated temperatures relevent to low grade hydrothermal Activity. Astrobiology Science Conference, Houston TX, April 26-29, 2010. Extended Abstract.

Hall A. S. and Seitz J. C. (2013) Densities of dilute coenzyme M solutions to 0.80 MPa and 353.15 K. Goldschmidt Conference, Florence Italy, August 25-30, 2013. Abstract

Rhett G. W., Seitz J. C., Schulte M. D., and Hall A. S. (2010) Densities of Dilute Adenosine Solutions to 50 MPa and 373.15 K. Goldschmidt Conference, Knoxville TN, June 13-18, 2010. Abstract.

Seitz J. C., Bahramian J., Blackwell R., Inaki T., York D., Schulte M. D. (2014) Volumetric Properties of Dilute Aqueous Solutions of 1- and 2-propanol to 50 MPa and 373.15 K. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA Abstract

Seitz J. C., Hand. C., Bahramian J., and York D. (2016) Volumetric properties of dilute aqueous solutions of glycine to 125°C and 500 bar. Goldschmidt Conference, Yokohama, Japan, June 26-July 1, 2016. PDF Abstract

Seitz J. C., Schulte M. D., Hall A. S., and Rhett G. W. (2010) Determination of the Volumetric Properties of Dilute D-glucose solutions to 50.0 MPa and 433.15 K. Astrobiology Science Conference, Houston TX, April 26-29, 2010. Extended Abstract..

Seitz J. C. Schulte M. D., Rhett G. W., and Hall A. S. (2011) Volumetric properties of dilute l-cysteine solutions to 50 MPa and 393.15 K toward a better understanding of the origin of life. American Chemical Society National Meeting, Anaheim CA, March 27-31, 2011. Abstract.

Seitz J. C. Schulte M. D., Rhett G. W., and Hall A. S. (2014) Volumetric properties of dilute aqueous solutions of D-ribose to 50 MPa and 413.15 K. Goldschmidt Conference, Sacramento, CA, June 8-13, 2014. Abstract