Silicon based life, has anybody tried this? (5)

1 Name: Anonymous Scientist : 2012-04-21 07:52 ID:/D9C9Ntc

Basically it is a variation of the experiment performed by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey in 1952 where you take water vapor, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen, then run a current through it to produce simple amino acids. Only in this variation we would replace the methane (CH4) with silane (SiH4). Has this experiment every been attempted it and if it has what were the results?

2 Name: Anonymous Scientist : 2012-04-29 10:12 ID:onORqr+d

As it turns out Silane is highly volatile and reacts violently in air. Perhaps DiSilane (Sih6) can be used instead?

3 Name: Anonymous Scientist : 2012-07-14 17:03 ID:0cHiNp+q

In decades past there was considerable theoretical interest in the idea of silicon-based life, but it turns out that silicon does not behave quite exactly like carbon. Silicon-silicon bonds are not as strong as carbon-carbon bonds, so the sort of enormous and complex carbon-based molecules required by life as we know it (proteins, etc.) are unstable when silicon is substituted for carbon.

See also,

http://nai.arc.nasa.gov/astrobio/feat_questions/silicon_life.cfm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothetical_types_of_biochemistry#Silicon_biochemistry

This is not to say that life evolving in an environment where soluble silicate and silane compounds were common could not have carbon-based biochemistry with bits of silicon-based compounds here and there that might have unusual and useful properties, but that is just speculation.

4 Name: Anonymous Scientist : 2012-09-20 20:17 ID:Ewm6MFEG

It's clear that Silicon atoms cannot be substituted for Carbon in our proteins, our DNA etc etc. But that does not mean Silicon cannot be base of some completely different life.

The main obstacle in my opinion is not only the fact that carbon is way more versatile in creating complicated structures, but also that it is way more abundant in the universe. For a silicon-based life to appear spontaneously, we would first need some mechanism creating planets with a lot of silicon and little or no carbon ... and quite probably "unnatural" concentrations of many more elements.

So maybe when our scientists master carbon-based abiogenesis in their test tubes, they may try to find out how to achieve similar outcome with silicon. But for now when it's not even clear what is needed for carbon-based life to arise from anorganic materials, it's a bit too early to try to construct it from silicon.

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