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Alternative Biochemistries

  1. Jun 6, 2013 #1
    Is it possible to use synthetic biology to create new kinds of life with alternative biologies such as a boron based lifeform or a solvent other than water such as ammonia or sulfuric acid? Alternatively, what is the likelihood of alternative biochemistries arising naturally as compared to life as it has manifested on earth? Is there some sort way of comparing the relative likelihoods of various forms of life arising (similar to the drake equation) based on the prevalence of the various atoms on which they are based?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 11, 2013 #2
    I think other threads cover creating synthetic biochemisteries. As for alternative biochemisties arising naturally I'd say it's possible. Especially for ammonia or hydrofluoric acid based life. Ammonia being the more likely of those two. Not sure about sulfuric acid though. Currently there are not equations to calculate how common this sort of life may be, but I'm sure one could be found. There are lots of considerations than just how abundant a chemical is. Like at what temperature and pressure ranges are those chemicals stable and in the desired state. The lower the energy state the more time it takes for time to develop. Alternative biochemisteries are just a thought experiment at this point, at least beyond the wide range of biochemisteries that are known on Earth already.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  4. Jun 11, 2013 #3
    Thank you very much @Ittiz, hopefully others who see this might provide any relevant links that they're aware of
  5. Jun 12, 2013 #4
  6. Jul 4, 2013 #5
    There really isn't anything to say that it is not possible. It would seem that such an element would likely fall within the middle of the periodic table (like carbon is), as such elements have great flexibility towards donating, accepting or sharing electrons to achieve a very wide variety of molecules that would be useful for life.

    Water works so well as the 'lubrication' of carbon based life because hydrogen bonds are easily broken and then re-established. This allows for metabolic processes, where various chemicals are created in a chain like fashion (one gets converted into another and that product subsequently gets converted into something else, etc). Something other than carbon would require an analog to water that would be compatible with it to facilitate resulting metabolic processes.
  7. Jul 5, 2013 #6


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