How nonequilibrium physics can drive the chemistry of early Life.
The Origin of Life is one of the fundamental, unsolved riddles of modern
science. Life as we know it is a stunningly complex non-equilibrium
process, keeping its entropy low against the second law of thermodynamics.
It is straightforward to argue that first living systems had to start in a
natural non-equilibrium setting. Arguing along a chain of experimental
evidences using non-equilibrium microsystems we argue that geological
temperature gradients across porous rock are able to drive molecular
evolution, i.e. the combined replication and selection of genetic molecules
towards ever increasing complexity. The experiments link non-equilibrium
physics with chemical reactions and explore physical mechanisms such as
phase transitions, thermophoresis, micro-convection and heat pipes to the
replication of the first sequence information in DNA and RNA. The
experiments are part of a new DFG collaborative research center "Emergence
of Life" in Munich. We think that only by combining the puzzle pieces from
different scientists and disciplines will we be able to reconstruct the
first steps of life in the lab.