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Life 2014, 4(3), 374-385; doi:10.3390/life4030374

Fluorine-Rich Planetary Environments as Possible Habitats for Life

1,* , 1
1 Department of Chemistry, Technical University of Berlin, Müller-Breslau-Straße 10, 10623 Berlin, Germany 2 School of the Environment, Washington State University, Webster Hall 1148, Pullman, WA 99164, USA 3 Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Technical University of Berlin, Hardenbergstraße 36, 10623 Berlin, Germany
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 July 2014 / Revised: 4 August 2014 / Accepted: 5 August 2014 / Published: 18 August 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Planetary Exploration: Habitats and Terrestrial Analogs)
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In polar aprotic organic solvents, fluorine might be an element of choice for life that uses selected fluorinated building blocks as monomers of choice for self-assembling of its catalytic polymers. Organofluorine compounds are extremely rare in the chemistry of life as we know it. Biomolecules, when fluorinated such as peptides or proteins, exhibit a “fluorous effect”, i.e., they are fluorophilic (neither hydrophilic nor lipophilic). Such polymers, capable of creating self-sorting assemblies, resist denaturation by organic solvents by exclusion of fluorocarbon side chains from the organic phase. Fluorous cores consist of a compact interior, which is shielded from the surrounding solvent. Thus, we can anticipate that fluorine-containing “teflon”-like or “non-sticking” building blocks might be monomers of choice for the synthesis of organized polymeric structures in fluorine-rich planetary environments. Although no fluorine-rich planetary environment is known, theoretical considerations might help us to define chemistries that might support life in such environments. For example, one scenario is that all molecular oxygen may be used up by oxidation reactions on a planetary surface and fluorine gas could be released from F-rich magma later in the history of a planetary body to result in a fluorine-rich planetary environment.
Keywords: Fluorine; habitability; life; planetary body; atmosphere; solvent; organic synthesis; organic chemistry; alternative biochemistry Fluorine; habitability; life; planetary body; atmosphere; solvent; organic synthesis; organic chemistry; alternative biochemistry
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Budisa, N.; Kubyshkin, V.; Schulze-Makuch, D. Fluorine-Rich Planetary Environments as Possible Habitats for Life. Life 2014, 4, 374-385.

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