Ice as a Catalyst for Life Emergence

Ice has long been believed to have played a crucial role in the emergence of life on Earth. One of the reasons behind this belief is the ability of ice to exclude organic molecules into the gaps between the crystal lattice. This orderly arrangement of water molecules leads to the concentration of organic compounds, providing an environment conducive to the formation of life. However, the study of organic molecules in ice has been limited by the techniques available, primarily relying on absorption-based spectroscopic methods such as Raman and infrared spectroscopy.

New Detection Method Using Phosphorescent Probes

A recent study led by a team of researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) has developed a novel method for detecting water-ice microstructures using organic phosphorescent probes and phosphorescence spectroscopy. This groundbreaking research, published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, introduces an emission-based approach to studying organic molecules in water ice. The team utilized a phosphorescent probe called acridinium iodide (ADI) to indicate microstructural changes in water ice, distinguishing between crystalline and glassy states.

Microstructural Changes Indicated by Phosphorescence Spectra

The microstructures of water ice can be significantly influenced by the presence of trace amounts of water-soluble organic molecules. In amorphous ice at low temperatures, the AD+ cation and I- anion of the ADI probe are separated by bound water molecules, resulting in long-lived phosphorescence with a greenish yellow afterglow. In contrast, ordered crystalline ice causes ADI molecules to aggregate, leading to short-lived red phosphorescence due to the heavy atom effect of iodine.

Effect of Ethylene Glycol on Water Ice

The team also studied the impact of ethylene glycol (EG) on water ice through the addition of small molecules and monodispersed polymers of EG. The addition of trace amounts of EG resulted in distinct spectroscopic changes in the emission spectra of ADI, indicating a transformation from undissolved aggregates to dissolved ion states. This transformation was further corroborated by Cryo-SEM images showing porous microstructures and LT-Raman spectra demonstrating a shift in the O-H vibration of water ice.

Inhibition of Crystalline Order by Trace Organics

The research revealed that trace amounts of small or large molecular organics can inhibit the crystalline order of water ice, providing new insights into the interactions between water, ice, and organics. The use of phosphorescence spectroscopy offered a more convenient and sensitive method for studying water-ice-organics interactions at lower concentrations and a wider temperature range. Additionally, the technique was able to distinguish morphological differences in water-ice microstructures when trace organics with varying structures were added to water, aligning with the results obtained from Raman spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy.


The study conducted by the researchers from USTC sheds new light on the role of ice in the emergence of life and offers a novel detection method using phosphorescent probes and spectroscopic techniques. By investigating the influence of trace organics on water-ice microstructures, the team has expanded our understanding of the complexities involved in the interactions between water, ice, and organic molecules. This research opens up new avenues for exploring the conditions necessary for the formation and evolution of life on Earth.


Articles You May Like

The Impact of Climate Change on the Earth’s Rotation
The Link Between Nightmares and Dementia Risk: What You Need to Know
Protecting Yourself Against Port-Out Hijacking and SIM-Swapping Scams
The Impact of Climate on Phosphorus Release from Soils

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *