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Silicon, unlike carbon, lacks the ability to form chemical bonds with diverse types of atoms as is necessary for the chemical versatility required for metabolism. Elements creating organic functional groups with carbon include hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and metals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. Silicon, on the other hand, interacts with very few other types of atoms. Moreover, where it does interact with other atoms, silicon creates molecules that have been described as "monotonous compared with the combinatorial universe of organic macromolecules". This is because silicon atoms are much bigger, having a larger mass and atomic radius, and so have difficulty forming double bonds (the double bonded carbon is part of the carbonyl group, a fundamental motif of bio-organic chemistry).
Silanes, which are chemical compounds of hydrogen and silicon that are analogous to the alkane hydrocarbons, are highly reactive with water, and long-chain silanes spontaneously decompose.