Macromolecular materials in meteorites and asteroids

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Earth Science and Engineering


JAXA and NASA have announced the availability of samples of asteroid Itokawa. The samples were returned to Earth by the Hayabusa Mission. These samples may contain organic matter and the majority of this will be macromolecular in nature. The samples will be very small and techniques that access the major organic component are essential. Novel on-line hydrogenation equipment at Imperial College London can effectively liberate this material for analysis. The technique will be assessed for analysis of asteroid samples. Small meteorite samples will be examined and, where possible, asteroid sample returns. The findings will improve our understanding of life and its distribution in the Universe.

Planned Impact

Scientific advances will be communicated through publication in the highest possible quality journals.

Origin of life studies attract enormous public interest. The work will be disseminated effectively through the professional services of the Imperial College London Press office in coordination with STFC.

Knowledge transfer will be facilitated by Imperial Innovations, the technology transfer office of Imperial College London, and the relevant funding opportunities provided by STFC to help with commercialisation.

The implications for space mission design and operation will communicated by the applicant at international conferences and via international committee work.


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Court Richard W. (2012) Extrasolar planets and false atmospheric biosignatures: The role of micrometeoroids in Planetary and Space Science

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Court Richard W. (2012) Insights into the nature of cometary organic matter from terrestrial analogues in International Journal of Astrobiology

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Montgomery W (2016) Sporopollenin, a Natural Copolymer, is Robust under High Hydrostatic Pressure in Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics

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Montgomery W (2016) The nature of organic records in impact excavated rocks on Mars. in Scientific reports

Description Greater understanding of how macromolecules are created in the Cosmos. Particularly those made up of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon monomers.
Exploitation Route Work is published and accessible to others
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals

Description Outreach events provide inspiration for the next generation of scientists. The work was presented at Imperial Fringe, the Royal Albert Hall and Pint of Science.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Impact Types Cultural,Societal