The nanoconfinement research group led by Dr. Frank Trixler addresses the question if natural nanofluidic environments can act as prebiotic reaction vessels capable to induce key steps of chemical evolution towards the origin of life.The relevance of this question becomes apparent in the light of the so-called water problem in prebiotic chemistry: the paradox that water is both essential for life but also inhibitive for the formation of key molecules such as RNA.
In aiming to solve this paradox, the group explores the catalytic potential of anomalous properties of water. Such non-classical properties emerge in temporal nanoconfinements between suspended crystal particles. Results obtained so far support the idea of a nanofluidic link between prebiotic geochemical and intracellular environments. This enables to overcome the water paradox in line with the conservative nature of evolution (principle of continuity). The group uses scanning probe microscopy, computational chemistry, molecular biological techniques, and other experimental methods in collaboration with partners.