Automating the discovery and emergence of life

Asche, Silke (2019) Automating the discovery and emergence of life. MSc(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The processes that led to the emergence of life is a not yet understood question. Bottom up approaches to the problem aim to understand how simple molecular building blocks give rise to complex, organized chemical systems. Historically, this approach has been limited by the combinatorial nature of organic chemistry and laborious analytical processes. In this work, these limitations have been circumvented by leveraging the power of automation to perform long-term, continuous experiments with the aim of constructing artificial life from abiotic starting points. To explore the complexification of simple molecule building blocks into chemical reaction networks, we perform recursive experiments. These are reactions that are periodically replenished with new starting material, thereby forcing the system far from equilibrium. This process leads to more complex product mixtures than non-recursive reactions, by inducing a historical dependence in the reaction network. We built a platform reactor system with in-line analysis, driven by a decision making algorithm and software with minimal human intervention. This gives us the opportunity to perform experiments 24/7, increasing the reaction throughput and screen a large chemical space in a short period of time. Using algorithmic feedback, the autonomous platform can make fast decisions on whether to change the chemical composition and reaction parameters. The ultimate aim of this project is to contribute to find the “missing link” in the progress of bottom-up synthesis of life like systems. The search for increasing complexity using analytical feedback allows us to look for the route by which simple molecules become complex systems, ultimately leading to a chemical to biological transition.

Item Type: Thesis (MSc(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Origins of life, artificial life, automation, fingerprinting.
Subjects: Q Science > QD Chemistry
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Chemistry
Supervisor's Name: Cronin, Professor Lee
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Miss Silke Asche
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-74350
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 14:02
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2023 07:52
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.74350

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