In quest to answer the secrets of the universe, UH researchers look to chocolate

In quest to answer the secrets of the universe, UH researchers look to chocolate

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of chemists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa believe that chocolate's unique and popular flavor may give them insight into the origin of the solar system.

The chemists say that they have successfully created and identified three chocolate flavor molecules in simulated conditions to determine how these molecules are made in the cosmos.

They say that this research takes them a step closer in their search to discover how life began.

"Our team used unique methods to mimic how molecules in interstellar ices could be transformed by ionizing radiation from galactic cosmic rays," said Matthew J. Abplanalp, a chemistry student at UH in a news release.

"To our surprise, three of the molecules we created contribute to the taste and flavor of chocolate here on Earth," Abplanalp said.

The chocolate flavor molecules that the team found were propanol and butanal. Both are complex organic molecules, or substances containing six or more atoms of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen.

Complex organic molecules are the building blocks of more complex molecules that are essential to life, and astronomers have been trying to figure out how they came to be for quite some time.

In the experiment, the team used ice made of carbon monoxide and methane were to further explore the idea that chocolate-related molecules can be synthesized in deep space.

The team's next step is to experiment using more complicated ice using phosphorus and nitrogen.

"The phosphorous-based ices will have importance for understanding how RNA, DNA and ATP may have formed," Abplanalp said.

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