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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

14 - Earth as Organic Chemist

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Summary

The Earth is a powerful organic chemist, transforming vast quantities of carbon through complex processes, leading to diverse suites of products that include the fossil fuels upon which modern societies depend. When exploring how the Earth operates as an organic chemist, it is tempting to turn to how organic reactions are traditionally studied in chemistry labs. While highly informative, especially in terms of insights gained into reaction mechanisms, this approach can also be a source of frustration, as many of the reactants and conditions employed in chemistry labs have few or no parallels to geologic processes. The primary goal of this chapter is to provide examples of predicting thermodynamic influences and using the predictions to design experiments that reveal the mechanisms of how reactions occur at the elevated temperatures and pressures encountered in the Earth. This work is ongoing, and we hope this chapter will inspire numerous and diverse experimental and theoretical advances in hydrothermal organic geochemistry.