Investigating the Kinetics of Montmorillonite Clay-Catalyzed Conversion of Anthracene to 9,10-Anthraquinone in the Context of Prebiotic Chemistry

Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2018 Sep;48(3):321-330. doi: 10.1007/s11084-018-9562-9. Epub 2018 Sep 10.


Carbonaceous meteorites contributed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to the organic inventory of the primordial Earth where they may have reacted on catalytic clay mineral surfaces to produce quinones capable of functioning as redox species in emergent biomolecular systems. To address the feasibility of this hypothesis, we assessed the kinetics of anthracene (1) conversion to 9,10-anthraquinone (2) in the presence of montmorillonite clay (MONT) over the temperature range 25 to 250 °C. Apparent rates of conversion were concentration independent and displayed a sigmoidal relationship with temperature, and conversion efficiencies ranged from 0.027 to 0.066%. Conversion was not detectable in the absence of MONT or a sufficiently high oxidation potential (in this case, molecular oxygen (O2)). These results suggest a scenario in which meteoritic 1 and MONT interactions could yield biologically important quinones in prebiotic planetary environments.

Keywords: 9,10-Anthraquinone; Anthracene; Kinetics; Montmorillonite; PAH; Prebiotic.

MeSH terms

  • Anthracenes / chemistry*
  • Anthraquinones / chemistry*
  • Bentonite / chemistry*
  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry, Inorganic
  • Clay / chemistry
  • Kinetics
  • Origin of Life
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / chemistry*
  • Temperature


  • Anthracenes
  • Anthraquinones
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • 9,10-anthraquinone
  • Bentonite
  • anthracene
  • Clay