We learned recently that “Clay-Armored Bubbles May Have Formed First Protocells: Minerals Could Have Played a Key Role in the Origins of Life” (ScienceDaily, Feb. 7, 2011):
A team of applied physicists at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), Princeton, and Brandeis have demonstrated the formation of semipermeable vesicles from inorganic clay.The research, published online in the journal Soft Matter, shows that clay vesicles provide an ideal container for the compartmentalization of complex organic molecules.
The authors say the discovery opens the possibility that primitive cells might have formed inside inorganic clay microcompartments.
“The conclusion here is that small fatty acid molecules go in and self-assemble into larger structures, and then they can’t come out,” says principal investigator Howard A. Stone, the Dixon Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton, and a former Harvard faculty member. “If there is a benefit to being protected in a clay vesicle, this is a natural way to favor and select for molecules that can self-organize.”
Future research will explore the physical interactions between the platelike clay particles, and between the liquids and the clay. The researchers are also interested to see whether these clay vesicles can, indeed, be found in the natural environment today.
Hmmm. I wouldn’t buy this china because I don’t know that the manufacturer even exists. Thoughts?