Life...isn't everything

Scientists do not know how the first living cells emerged from the so-called primordial soup, but new research suggests that photocatalysis of organic molecules in fatty acid membranes offers a plausible method for energy transfer and storage in prebiotic systems and perhaps explains how such vesicles might harness energy from their surroundings for chemical reactions. This would be an essential step on the road towards more complex systems and perhaps life. James Boncella and colleagues report a primitive energy transduction mechanism that demonstrates that photocatalytic reactions involving polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons trapped in the vesicle membrane can capture and store energy.