What would Germanium based life look like and what conditions would favor it. I know that it's not that common but I am going to handwave that.

What would be the resulting look for such a lifeform if indeed it was based on germanium and used semiconductors for life sustaining processes( like silicon life would look like a rock, what would germanium likely appear as)?

What temperatures and solvent would be good for that form of life?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You might want to narrow down your question. As it is, you're asking the people here to design a whole world for you. It's usually better to ask for advice on specific points that you have already researched but have some doubts about. $\endgroup$
    – pablodf76
    Commented Feb 10, 2018 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ @pablodf76 Oh okay thank you for pointing that out, that is not at all what I am trying to do, I'll narrow it down to the main things I need $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Commented Feb 10, 2018 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure Germanium is suitable for life. Already silicon is way less versatile in forming compounds... and germanium is further down in the periodic table $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Feb 10, 2018 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ @pablodf76 I hope this edit makes it better $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Commented Feb 10, 2018 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Setting aside @Karl's complaint for a moment (this site is about science fiction, after all...), a problem rarely addressed by authors who have non-carbon lifeforms meet carbon lifeforms is how each lifeform will chemically react within the environment suitable for the other. Germanium's need to use an acid for a solvent is a good example. Your aliens would be forced to use spacesuits 24x7 on Earth to avoid (dramatically) liquifying when their acid meets our rather base-based world. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


Unlikely. And I mean that in the literal sense.

To put it simply germanium is too rare. In the Earths crust its concentration is three orders of magnitude lower than carbon. This means that odds of germanium based life on the surface of an Earth-like planet are remote.

Added issue is that germanium is not very soluble in most solvents. Some germanium compounds are but I guess the higher mass of germanium handicaps it when compared to carbon compounds.

Only real chance I see is life underground. Specifically within the core of a terrestrial planet. The cores are of presumed to be mostly of iron, nickel and siderophile elements. Germanium is one of those. Silicon and carbon are not. In there germanium could be common enough at some locations and the easiest element for complex molecules due to lack of competition. The high temperatures would remove all solubility issues.

Needless to say that is very hypothetical scenario. Our knowledge of the structure and chemistry of the core is sparse. I doubt there is a real way to evaluate the possibility of such life. From a practical view point using such life in a story might also be problematic because not only would it be entirely alien, it would be separated from familiar life by thousands of kilometers of rock hostile to either form of life.

Sound waves do travel thru that so communication might be possible. And in a story you can give the germanium sentients powerful psionic abilities and enjoy a nice game of hide and seek when human colonists try to figure out where those aliens playing mind games with them actually are.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer, but what about using aqua regia as a solvent for Germanium? also if their was enough germanium with aqua regia could live on the planets surface and interact with humans, or could a suit let it travel to the top? $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Commented Feb 10, 2018 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ Could they exist in the mantel as well? $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ One more thing, let's say Germanium is common on the planets surface, what temperatures would the surface need to be to remove the solubility issues $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 4:31
  • $\begingroup$ @user45751 You could use acid as solvent, yes, and in that case something like Venus might be enough. But that does just make the main issue of odds being against it worse. Acids react with stuff, so the oceans of acids would not be stable. Same is true of oxygen, of course, but oxygen using life evolved from life that finds it toxic after photosynthesis started producing it as a side effect. No such path of evolution exists here. Your life would have to be artificial and the planet seeded with acids and germanium by its alien creators. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 11:57

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