April 17, 2024

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Complex organic chemistry in sulfuric acid and life on Venus

Complex organic chemistry in sulfuric acid and life on Venus

Finding extraterrestrial life in any form would truly be one of the biggest discoveries in human history, but after decades of searching the surface of Mars and investigating other bodies like asteroids, we still haven't found any evidence. While we generally assume we're looking for carbon-based life forms in a water-rich environment like Jupiter's moon Europa, what if complex organic chemistry is perfectly happy with sulfuric acid (H?2So4) as a solvent instead of hydrogen monoxide (H2s)? This is the premise behind a group of recent studies, with A Recently published research article in Astrobiology by [Maxwell D. Seager] And his colleagues lend credence to this idea.

Previous studies have shown that organic chemistry in concentrated sulfuric acid is possible, and that DNA bases – including adenosine, cytosine, guanine, thymine and uracil that make up DNA – are also stable in this environment, which is similar to those found in floral clouds. At an altitude where the atmospheric pressure is approximately one atmosphere. In this new articleTwenty amino acids were exposed to the concentrations of sulfuric acid normally found on Venus, 98% and 81%, with the remainder being water. Of these, 11 were unchanged after 4 weeks, and 9 were reactive on their side chains, as they would be in pure water. Only tryptophan ended up being unstable, but as the researchers note, not all amino acids are stable in water either.

The limitations of this research are of course that it was conducted in a laboratory setting, using concentrated, uncontaminated sulfuric acid, rather than clouds flowering with trace elements from other gases – such as carbon dioxide.2 – and the constant bombardment by meteorites, which have been shown to be often filled with such amino acids. Future research will take these variables into account, even as scientists can't wait for data from upcoming Venus missions, with better sensors that might glimpse such organic chemistry in action.

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