It’s life Geoff, but not as we know it (Day 286)

Chemical engineering can offer a life full of surprises, but I can honestly say that I never imagined the discipline being used to describe an extra-terrestrial life form.

titanBut that’s the out of this world topic behind today’s blog. A team of chemical engineers and astronomers from Cornell University, US, have developed a template for life that might survive on Titan, the giant moon of Saturn.

I have already discussed our chemical engineering colleagues who are astronauts (see ‘A path to the stars’) and possible methods of powering space missions (see ‘Human waste could power a lunar space mission’); but the reaches of space are endless.

Our imaginations for other lifeforms are often limited by the assumption that water is a requirement for life. Whilst this is true on Earth, in other, colder worlds life may exist beyond the realm of water-chemistry.

Titan has seas, like Earth, but unlike Earth these seas are filled with liquid methane. The team suggest that Titan could support methane-based, oxygen-free cells that are able to metabolise, reproduce and complete all the other functions necessary for life – as on Earth.

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