Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 177–189

Thermal Energy and the Origin of Life

Article

Abstract

Life has evolved on Earth with electromagnetic radiation (light), fermentable organic molecules, and oxidizable chemicals as sources of energy. Biological use of thermal energy has not been observed although heat, and the thermal gradients required to convert it into free energy, are ubiquitous and were even more abundant at the time of the origin of life on Earth. Nevertheless, Earth-organisms sense thermal energy, and in suitable environments may have gained the capability to use it as energy source. It has been proposed that the first organisms obtained their energy by a first protein named pF1 that worked on a thermal variation of the binding change mechanism of today's ATP sythase enzyme. Organisms using thermosynthesis may still live where light or chemical energy sources are not available. Possible suitable examples are subsurface environments on Earth and in the outer Solar System, in particular the subsurface oceans of the icy satellites of Jupiter and Saturn.

Keywords

thermal energy origin of life exobiology prebiotic chemistry thermosynthesis heat engine prebiotic environments early Earth 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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