The 1953 experiment of Miller and Urey was a watershed in
"origin of life" research. It showed that under conditions
that simulated the early Earth, amino acids and other biologically
relevant molecules could be synthesized from inorganic starting
materials in the laboratory.
Animation of the spark-discharge experiment. The device shown
was initially filled with ammonia, methane, and dihydrogen gases
at pressures of 100, 200, and 200 torr respectively. These gases
simulated the atmosphere that was assumed to exist on the early
Earth. The flask on the lower left contained water that was heated
to boiling. Since the lower flask contains water, the apparatus
also contained water vapor. In the large glass bulb in the upper
right, a spark discharge continuously supplied energy. Below
the glass bulb was a condensing column that re-circulated materials
from the large bulb into the liquid water.
The video shows an actual re-creation of the Miller-Urey experiment.
The apparatus is set-up as described in the previous animation.
The original experiment was run for about one week, here we will
view two separate experiments in time lapse. Be sure to observe
carefully and note any changes that you see during the course
of these experiments. On analysis of the reaction mixture, there
were 19 organic compounds identified, including the amino acids:
glycine and alanine.
Spark Discharge | Origins of Life | ChemConnections