Possible origin for insoluble organic (kerogen) debris in sediments from insoluble cell-wall materials of algae and bacteria
KEROGEN is an inert amorphous organic material insoluble in organic solvents, mineral acids, and bases1. In spite of its abundance, the precise molecular structure of this insoluble organic material has long remained an enigma. Structural determinations are complicated by the fact that the structure of any kerogen from different samples varies depending on the types of organic material originally responsible for its formation, and variations in the environmental conditions experienced during and after its formation. We have shown that kerogen-like material can be isolated from recently deposited algal mats. On oxidative degradation this material gives rise to products similar in nature to those obtained by degradation of ancient kerogens known to be of algal origin2,3. These results imply that kerogen-like precursors or proto-kerogens, are formed very rapidly on a geological time scale and are found in certain types of recent sediments rich in organic matter.