Through a set of experiments using the alpha and gamma beams of the Arronax cyclotron, the radiolysis team of the radiochemistry group of the Subatech laboratory, led by Johan Vandenborre, has succeeded in showing that the products of carbonate radiolysis (notably formate and acetate) constitute a potential energy source for the deep biosphere. In this environment, the conditions are very close to those that prevailed on Earth when the first forms of life appeared nearly 4 billion years ago.

This work, published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, results from a collaboration with Laurent Truche, a geochemist at the Institut des Sciences de la Terre (ISTerre) at Grenoble Alpes University.

Diagram of the production of organic matter from the radiolysis of carbonates involved in the origins of life (Costagliola A. and al. 2017 ; Vandenborre J. 2021)

The American online media Quanta Magazine cites this work in an article exploring the role played by radiolysis of water in the emergence and evolution of life in extreme conditions.

Contact : Johan Vandenborre