Could life in the universe be based on elements other than carbon?

The conventional assumption that carbon is the building block of life may be challenged, as researchers explore the potential for alternative elements to support biological processes.

Could life in the universe be based on elements other than carbon?
Sulfur, might be? (Photo: Pexels)

Due to the dominance of carbon-based life forms, including humans, on Earth, carbon is frequently regarded as the universe's foundation. However, this does not imply that carbon-based life forms are required for all life in the universe. Based on other elements with similar chemical and physical properties to carbon, life may theoretically exist.

Silicon, phosphorus, and sulfur as possible alternatives for life forms

Silicon, for instance, is frequently cited as a carbon-free alternative to life. Similar to carbon, silicon is suitable for life because it can form long chains and has four valence electrons. Nonetheless, silicon-based living things would require an alternate climate, as silicon-based compounds are more hard to shape under typical circumstances on The planet. Since water is unable to dissolve large quantities of silicon-based compounds, silicon-based life would also require a different solvent. As a result, if there are silicon-based life forms, they would require a different environment, possibly on planets containing a lot of silicon compounds and different solvents.

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, which are necessary for life as we know it, are additional potential elements for life in the universe. Nitrogen, for instance, can be found in the building blocks of proteins, the amino acids. Sulfur is necessary for the functioning of certain enzymes, and phosphorus is an essential component of DNA and cell membranes. There are a lot of these three elements in the universe, and under the right conditions, they could support life.

life forms based on other elements
A concept image of mutating DNA. (Unsplash)

Exotic forms of life, such as those based on plasma or even dark matter, have also been proposed by some researchers. Even though these are only theoretical ideas, they show that life could exist in ways we don't yet understand.

In conclusion, although carbon-based life forms dominate on Earth, it is entirely possible that other elements make up universe-wide life. Exotic forms of life cannot be completely ruled out, and potential candidates include silicon, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, and others. To increase the likelihood of finding life elsewhere in the universe, the search for life beyond Earth ought to take into account all possibilities, including life forms that do not depend on carbon.