Organic molecules dissolved in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans are essential to plant and animal life. Some of these molecules are also degraded and enter a complex cycle of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur containing compounds. Surprisingly, scientists currently have a limited understanding of the fate of these molecules. Dr. Daisuke Minakata and his colleagues from Michigan Technological University are involved in an ambitious programme to overcome this critical knowledge gap.
Minakata was prompted to develop a theory to explain the loss of critical amino acids from water. He assumed that other organic molecules absorb the energy carried by the rays of sunshine and those reactive intermediates transform amino acids into small pieces. According to his theory, such light-activated compounds could act as catalysts, inducing the indirect breakdown of critical amino acids.
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