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Supercritical Carbon Dioxide and Its Potential as a Life-Sustaining Solvent in a Planetary Environment

by 1,*,† and 2,3,*,†
1
Department of Chemistry, Technical University Berlin, Müller-Breslau-Straße 10, D-10623 Berlin, Germany
2
Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Technical University Berlin, Hardenbergstraße 36, D-10623 Berlin, Germany
3
School of the Environment, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Both authors contributed equally to this work.
Life 2014, 4(3), 331-340; https://doi.org/10.3390/life4030331
Received: 25 June 2014 / Revised: 30 July 2014 / Accepted: 31 July 2014 / Published: 8 August 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Planetary Exploration: Habitats and Terrestrial Analogs)
Supercritical fluids have different properties compared to regular fluids and could play a role as life-sustaining solvents on other worlds. Even on Earth, some bacterial species have been shown to be tolerant to supercritical fluids. The special properties of supercritical fluids, which include various types of selectivities (e.g., stereo-, regio-, and chemo-selectivity) have recently been recognized in biotechnology and used to catalyze reactions that do not occur in water. One suitable example is enzymes when they are exposed to supercritical fluids such as supercritical carbon dioxide: enzymes become even more stable, because they are conformationally rigid in the dehydrated state. Furthermore, enzymes in anhydrous organic solvents exhibit a “molecular memory”, i.e., the capacity to “remember” a conformational or pH state from being exposed to a previous solvent. Planetary environments with supercritical fluids, particularly supercritical carbon dioxide, exist, even on Earth (below the ocean floor), on Venus, and likely on Super-Earth type exoplanets. These planetary environments may present a possible habitat for exotic life. View Full-Text
Keywords: anhydrous solvents; biotransformations; carbon dioxide; enzymes; geochemistry; habitat; molecular memory; organic solvents; scCO2 anhydrous solvents; biotransformations; carbon dioxide; enzymes; geochemistry; habitat; molecular memory; organic solvents; scCO2
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MDPI and ACS Style

Budisa, N.; Schulze-Makuch, D. Supercritical Carbon Dioxide and Its Potential as a Life-Sustaining Solvent in a Planetary Environment. Life 2014, 4, 331-340.

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