Can organisms feed with vibrations or thermal infrared? - (Aug/27/2008 )
In microscopic scale chemical reactions are reversible - the dominant
direction depends of parameters (like ATPase H+).
Myosin can change energy stored in ATP into movement. It's functions are too directed, too complicated to be reversed in practice.
But imagine simpler protein which is physically connected to for
example intersections of filaments of the cytoskeleton and can catch ADP
and phosphate. Now vibrations would cause movement of the cytoskeleton
which are transferred to the protein, which binds molecules into ATP.
What for? To actively absorb vibration/sound, for example to reduce
turbulations while swimming/flying or ... feed with tectonic
I'm not saying that it's so simple, but looks to be possible.
And if yes, mother nature is extremely inventiveness creature ... look
how sophisticated machinery was constructed to use energy from
We have plenty of microbes in deep earth for billions of earth - there
were/are some sources of chemical energy, but generally they are
starving. Scientist has problem to explain their extremely low
Extremely low metabolism has also psychrophiles - but it's because of
cold - all reactions are slowed down. It's not because of lack of
energy - they usually have access to it.
We are talking about thermophiles , which should have consumed most of
available chemical energy sources for last billions of years and new
come extremely rarely.
Remember that energy is needed not only for metabolism,
reproduction ... it's necessary to sustain the structure of the
organism, fight with increasing entropy - especially in high
Their life would be much easier if they would be able to feed not only
with chemical energy, especially when there is plenty of it in tectonic vibrations and heat around...
Feeding with pure heat looks even less probable...
But remember that these objects emit thermal infrared - of a few micrometers wavelength.
We are thinking to use this energy in practice (like powering MP3 players) in much smaller temperatures:
Photosynthesis for these wavelength could be more difficult than for visible light, but if it's possible thermophiles should have found it... ?
There could be also possible mechanism to feed with heat directly...
At the first spot it seems as previously to be against classical thermodynamics - converting pure heat into different energy. But this theory is simplification. Heat energy is random microscopic movement - a noise. The trick is to use a resonance to gather surrounding frequencies and convert them into coherent movement - sound, light (infrared?) ... Lately it was proved that we can for example change heat into sound and then we can use for example piezoelectric effect to convert it into electricity:
The question is if it can be done in microscopic level - using single
molecules, proteins and temperatures smaller than 120C? For example a
molecule which can resonance and then instead of emitting infrared photon, it would use the energy in reaction cascade to bind ADP and phosphate...
Not using IR, but there is one classic example.... photosynthesis
Plants also use near red and far red as triggers for cyclic processes such as flowering, so there are interactions that take place related to light use. In animals too dopamine production is associated with light/dark cycles somehow (can't remember).