The Radiolysis of Aqueous Ammonium Cyanide: Compounds of Interest to Chemical Evolution Studies
Oxygen-free aqueous solutions of NH4CN (0.1 M, pH 9) were exposed to gamma rays from a 60Co source, the mixture of nonvolatile products was fractionated, and the fractions were analyzed. The procedures were chosen to make effective investigations of radiolytic products, and to minimize the contributions of chemical changes which are known to occur in aqueous solution in the absence of ionizing radiation. It has been found that the main constituents are: urea, 25.9%; an oligomer, very likely oligoimine (18.4%); and several fractions (about 50%) which release amino acids on hydrolysis. These fractions differ considerably, as shown by amino acid assay, enzymatic digestion, IR spectra, and biuret reaction. All these tests were found to be positive for two fractions; in two further fractions the enzymatic cleavage was absent, but other tests were positive. Negative enzymatic and biuret tests, and no bands characteristic of amide or peptide, were found for a fraction whose hydrolysate consisted of 55% glycine. Although most of the isolated materials were found to be composite, the results of the analyses were sufficient for getting a reliable over-all picture of the chemical action of the ionizing radiation. The role of free radicals in reactions leading to the formations of radiolytic products was considered.