Organic compounds are present as complex mixtures in extraterrestrial materials including meteorites, which may have played important roles in the origin of life on the primitive Earth. However, the distribution and formation mechanisms of meteoritic organic compounds are not well understood, because conventional analytical methods have limited resolution and sensitivity to resolve their molecular complexity. In this study, advanced instrumental development and analyses are proposed in order to study the trace organic compounds of extraterrestrial materials: (1) a clean room environment to avoid organic contamination during analysis; (2) high-mass-resolution analysis (up to ~150,000 m/⊿m) coupled with high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) in order to determine the elemental composition using exact mass for inferring the chemical structure; (3) superior chromatographic separation using a two-dimensional system in order to determine the structural and optical isomers of amino acids; and (4) in situ organic compound analysis and molecular imaging of the sample surface. This approach revealed a higher complexity of organic compounds with a heterogeneous distribution in meteorites. These new methods can be applied to study the chemical evolution of meteoritic organic compounds as well as the molecular occurrence in very-low-mass extraterrestrial materials such as asteroid-returned samples.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes