Some of the most interesting open questions about the origins of life and molecular sciences center on chemical evolution and the spontaneous generation of new complex and functional chemical species. The spectacular polymers that underlay biology demonstrate an untapped, by modern science, creative potential. We hypothesized that prebiotic chemical evolutionary processes leading to biopolymers were not idiosyncratic one-off events. We have developed an experimental platform that accomplishes chemical evolution in the laboratory. In this paper we describe this platform and report empirical outcomes, some of which were not foreseen. We have constructed experimental platform to study evolution of chemical systems that: (i) undergo continuous recursive change with transitions to new chemical spaces while not converging, (ii) demonstrate stringent chemical selection, during which combinatorial explosion is avoided, (iii) maintain synchronicity of molecular sub-populations, and (iv) harvest environmental energy that is invested in chemical reactions. We have established general guidelines for conducting chemical evolution. Our results suggest that chemical evolution can be adapted to produce a broad array of molecules with novel structures and functions.
We have clarified and simplified the introduction.