Science

Why Is Life Carbon-Based (And Not, Say, Silicon-Based)?

Carbon,Form,Periodic,Table,Of,Elements

Carbon dominates life on Earth and is the foundation of practically everything, including plants, animals, humans, and life-supporting bio-molecules, such as carbohydrates, amino acids, and so much more.

Featured image: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-illustration/carbon-form-periodic-table-elements-17086795

Everything on Earth is carbon-based and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, but could life elsewhere in the universe be based on a different substance?

It’s fascinating to see life forms depicted by movies and cutting-edge series like Stranger Things, Annihilation, Arrival, and Love, Death and Robots. These creative new worlds give rise to our curiosity, and our desire to know if such things really have any chance of existing.

Carbon Everywhere

(Caption: The presence of Carbon is everywhere on Earth)


Recommended Video for you:

{
“@context”: “https://schema.org”,
“@type”: “VideoObject”,
“name”: “How Do Astronauts Get Breathable Oxygen In Space (Aboard The ISS)?”,
“description” : “Astronauts onboard the ISS get their breathable oxygen in two main ways – through systems onboard the ISS that generate breathable oxygen and through resupply missions that deliver breathable oxygen to the ISS.

There is plenty of oxygen on Earth; but things change drastically as you breach the ‘boundary’ of the sky and reach the blackness of space. Oxygen is hard to come by in space, that’s why space engineers figured out a way to provide sufficient quantities of oxygen to astronauts that head to space and stay up there for months on end. Aboard the ISS, there are two systems that provide breathable oxygen to astronauts – NASA’s ECLSS and Russia’s Elektron. These two are referred to as oxygen generators, as they provide breathable oxygen through electrolysis of water.

Check out this video for more details about ways through which astronauts get oxygen in space.

References

Click to access 20160014553.pdf

Click to access Activated_Carbon_or_Charcoal_Filters.pdf

Click to access g-281237_eclss_0.pdf

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/eclss-put-to-the-test-for-commercial-crew-missions

#science #funfacts #ISS

Photo Credits:

Shutterstock/Volodymyr Goinyk/illustration ID: 1583061805
Shutterstock/Vadim Sadovski/photo ID: 551379514
Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff/photo ID: 1042736407
Shutterstock/Dima Zel/photo ID: 1425668150
Shutterstock/NikoNomad/photo ID: 453720853
Shutterstock/3Dsculptor/illustration ID: 729066739
Shutterstock/3Dsculptor/illustration ID: 734071369
Shutterstock/Andrey Armyagov/photo ID: 311480090
Shutterstock/3Dsculptor/illustration ID: 525332023
Shutterstock/3Dsculptor/illustration ID: 1151457788
Shutterstock/Fer Gregory/illustration ID: 1449284897
Shutterstock/litabit/photo ID: 486573790
Shutterstock/Dima Zel/photo ID: 1425668150
Shutterstock/mycteria/photo ID: 232928557
Wikipedia/Electrolysis/ PEM electrolysis diagram/Davidlfritz/ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PEM_Elektrolyse_5.gif
Wikipedia/The National Transportation Safety Board/ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aircraft_oxygen_generator_diagram.svg
NASA images and videos Library: images.nasa.gov

Video Credits:

Pexels/Artem Beliaikin
Pixabay/Coverr-Free-Footage
Evanto Elements/Breath of Nature by Pressmaster
Pixabay/Photoman61
Evanto Elements/ Woman Breathing Fresh Air in a Forest in Autumn by ADcour
Pexels/Pixabay
Pixabay/NASA-Imagery
Evanto Elements/A View of the Earth and a Spaceship. ISS Is Orbiting the Earth by icetray
Evanto Elements/Astronaut Looking Out of Spaceship Window by FrameStock
Evanto Elements/Astronaut In Outer Space by cookelma
Evanto Elements/Man Conducting Chemical Reaction by FrameStock
Evanto Elements/Glass In a Chemical Laboratory, Colored Liquid by sergiostock
Evanto Elements/Large Pipe Plant for the Production of Thermal Energy by shico2000
Evanto Elements/Jet Of White Smoke Overlaps The Screen by Saracin

Music Credits:

Evanto Elements/Enjoy the Experience by BrownHouseMedia

SUBSCRIBE to get more such science videos!
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcN3IuIAR6Fn74FWMQf6lFA?sub_confirmation=1

Follow us on Twitter!

Follow us on Facebook!
https://facebook.com/sciabc

Follow our Website!
https://www.scienceabc.com”,
“thumbnailUrl” : “https://i.ytimg.com/vi/I_cOqxZqjFU/sddefault.jpg”,
“uploadDate” : “2020-04-13T10:30:02Z”,
“duration” : “PT4M40S”,
“keywords” : [“ISS”,”Oxygen”,”ECLSS”,”Russian Elektron”,”NASA”,”how does the iss get oxygen”,”how iss gets oxygen”,”how does iss get oxygen”,”how do iss produce oxygen”,”how does iss receive oxygen”,”how does eclss work”,”Electrolysis”,”percholate candles”,”Zeolite”,”science”,”fun facts”],
“contentUrl” : “https://youtube.com/watch/?v=I_cOqxZqjFU”,
“embedUrl” : “https://www.youtube.com/embed/I_cOqxZqjFU”,
“commentCount” : “35”,
“interactionCount” : “28376”
}


What makes carbon so special?

Carbon is that short kid in class who is very social and bonds with everyone extremely easily.

when carbon sees other elements

(Caption: Carbon is so active that it bonds with any element, given the opportunity)

The 4 electrons in its outer shell are open for sharing with anyone. Carbon easily forms covalent bonds with other elements due to its small size, and the molecules and compounds it forms are exceedingly stable. Carbon’s tetravalency and small size make it very special, so it takes every opportunity to complete its octet and become stable.

An,Atomic,Diagram,Of,Carbon,Dioxide,,Or,Co2,,Showing,Its

Carbon forming covalent bonds with Oxygen (Photo Credit : iQoncept/Shutterstock)

Catenation (the formation of bonds between carbon atoms) causes carbon to form extraordinarily stable chains, branches, and ring-like structures. Not only does it bond with other carbon, but it also forms stable bonds with hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and many other elements, all of which are necessary combinations as a basis for life. Carbon’s bond strength varies based on the orientation of its bond and the element with which it forms a bond. Electropositivity, chirality, melting and boiling points, nuclear distance, forces of attraction, and a variety of other chemical and physical properties all play a role in stability and reactivity.

Cells,And,Biological,Chain,molecules,And,Abstract,Conception,3d,Rendering.,Computer,Digital

Diagrammatic representation of carbon showing catenation (Photo Credit : Vink Fan/Shutterstock)

Why not silicon or any other element?

Periodic Table of the Elements Colorful Vector Illustration including 2016 the four new elements Nihonium, Moscovium, Tennessine and Oganesson

Carbon and Silicon in Group 14 (Photo Credit : Humdan/Shutterstock)

The closest element to carbon’s “social” abilities is silicon, but silicon is big and somewhat introverted. Even though silicon belongs to the same group as carbon, it fails to form strong and stable bonds with itself or other elements, especially hydrogen. When it does form stable bonds, they aren’t as varied, flexible or complex as carbon bonds. Reactions of silicon in comparison to those of carbon are also slower.

carbon and silicon element

Silicon & Carbon in elemental forms(Photo Credit : magnetix & Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz/Shutterstock)

Biochemistry is also a game-changer in this debate. CO2 dissolves in our blood and helps maintain the pH of the blood, while plants use it for photosynthesis to generate oxygen that supports other life. Now, imagine breathing SiO2, which is a crystal… doesn’t sound very easy.

However, some diatoms residing in the ocean do have silicon in their system, but the case is not the same as self-replicating carbon-based DNA and RNA, some of the backbone biomolecules of living creatures.

Possibility of life based on any other element?

At least on Earth, life will remain carbon-based.

Carbon’s flexibility, stability and ability to create polymers makes it nearly ideal as the building block of life on this planet. Chemically, it seems nearly impossible for silicon to replace carbon, especially considering that silicon is toxic to certain living organisms.

Conclusion

The crux of life lies in building blocks of proteins or similar compounds, as well as metabolism and genetic material. We know this because of what we have seen on Earth and within its life forms. For life to exist elsewhere, certain compounds are needed, but not necessarily in the same way. A life form is just a chemistry complex. Carbon prevails on Earth, but Sulfur, Nitrogen, Phosphorus or Silicon could also be potential elements in the formation of life. Sulfur forms long chains like carbon, and certain bacteria, such as thiobacillus, are reported to be surviving on sulfur. Nitrogen, upon combining with phosphorus, can also form various molecules and complex macromolecules. They also form elements of DNA, which is fundamental to life on Earth. Ammonia, methane, and ethane are possible solvents that could replace water, since they do not destroy (unlike water) hydrolytically unstable organic species, controlling complicated organic chemical reactivity and most likely host a life form different than what we conceive. Possible evidence of liquid ammonia on Titan and Enceladus’ ocean provides possibilities for discovering new life forms. After all, life on Earth also started in an ocean rich in complex molecules. Scientists have also been looking for technosignatures, which are nothing but signals or indicators that provide evidence of a technological life apart from Earth, such as the presence of radio signals. The discovery of a technosignature could provide a good lead towards any other established civilizations. On our own planet Earth, extremophiles, thermophiles, and even those cute little tardigrades have evolved to such an extent that they are capable of surviving anything, to the point of being almost indestructible. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they diverged to evolve into a separate species based on sulphur, rather than carbon, and become the source of different life forms.

A lot goes into creating life, and this article has just touched the tip of the iceberg. It is disappointing to know that we will have to settle for sci-fi movies for our non-carbon-based life forms, but we shouldn’t give up on our scientists and researchers who are continuously trying to push beyond our carbon-based existence!

Suggested Reading

The post Why Is Life Carbon-Based (And Not, Say, Silicon-Based)? appeared first on Muhabarishaji.com.

Original article Source link

Back to top button