I-ENVISION Challenge: Biology - Biochemistry of Life

This option requires you, as contest participants, to interpret an excerpt containing a novel idea or mechanism which is taken

from a recent research article or student thesis. Using your imagination, creativity and an animation technology, you will then

illustrate the given description in the form of animation or motion picture


  • Relating to the grade 12 Biology (SBI4U0) - Biochemistry of Life (with focus on how a selection of biological macromolecules of                                               silicon-based forms and interacts with non-polar solvent to support an alternate life form) 

                       [Excerpt is shown below the animation entries]


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        "Any life based on chemistry requires the presence of macromolecules and polymeric chemistry to interact with a versatile environment and

        a multitude of compounds. It also requires a solvent system that could facilitate chemical reactions and bonding to create biological molecules 

        conducive to life.

            Life on Earth is complex in chemistry. Despite so, only a few of all the available elements participate in most life-supporting reactions: carbon,

         nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus, and sulphur. Of these, the most characteristic element of biological systems is carbon. Its ability to

         form the backbone of long-chain polymers and rings in the presence of water, a common Earth solvent, makes carbon central to the chemical

         complexity of living systems.

         Silanes are similarly as versatile as carbon in cryogenic environment and are abundantly found on all rocky planets (e.g. Venus). In the 

         presence of non-polar solvents (e.g. methane), Si - O bonding is known to be extremely strong and readily forms a silicate tetrahedron.

         These tetrahedral can combine into chains, rings, double-chains, sheets and three-dimensional structures. As such, it is conceivable that

         those silicon-based macromolecules are analogous in function to many of the ones currently found on Earth (e.g. lipid bilayers, starch

         (nutrients), messenger proteins, nucleotides, and DNA double helix).

         Organisms in non-polar solvent, however, would have a biochemistry quite different from that of Terran organisms. For example, membranes

         of Terran organisms, which are submerged in the polar solvent, water, are amphiphilic with their non-polar (hydrophobic) tails oriented towards 

         each other, away from the solvent. If a non-polar solvent could support life, the chemical orientation might be reversed analogous to reverse 

         miscelles, or may consist of multi-layer lipids."

            Reference:  Schulze-Makuch, D., and L.N. Irwin, (2006). The prospect of alien life in exotic forms on other worlds. Naturwissenchaften

​                                            93:155-172.