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2004 Annual Science Report

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Reporting  |  JUL 2003 – JUN 2004

Cosmic Ice Laboratory: Organic Synthesis in Energetically Processed Ices

Project Summary

Cosmic Ice Laboratory: Organic Synthesis in Energetically Processed Ices

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

Cosmic Ice Laboratory: Organic Synthesis in Energetically Processed Ices

We completed laboratory investigations of the low temperature chemistry of acetonitrile, propionitrile, acrylonitrile, cyanoacetylene, and cyanogen (CH3 CN, CH3 CH2 CN, CH2 CHCN, HCCCN, and NCCN, respectively). Trends were sought, and found, in the photo and radiation chemical products of these molecules at 12 – 25K. In the absence of water, all of these molecules isomerized to isonitriles, and CH3 CN, CH3 CH2 CN, and (CH3)2 CHCN also formed ketenimines. In the presence of H2O, no isonitriles were detected but rather the isocyante ion (OCN-) was seen in all cases. Although isonitriles, ketenimines, and OCN- were the main focus of this work, we also examined cases of hydrogen loss, to make smaller nitriles, and hydrogen addition (reduction), to make larger nitriles. HCN formation was also seen in most experiments. The results are directly applicable to the nitrile ice chemistry on Titan, in cometary ice, and in the interstellar medium.

Start-up activities include:

  • The Van de Graaff accelerator used for the generation of the proton beam is being rebuilt to increase beam current and to improve beam positioning and stability. The final stages of this process are nearly complete and a test beam should occur by June 20.
  • A new Nicolet infrared (IR) spectrometer and a new cryostat have been installed. The spectrometer is more sensitive and has near-IR capability whereas the cryostat’s 6.5K temperature will permit H trapping in ices.
  • We will include a simulation of the solar nebula x-ray environment (1-10 keV x-rays are observed for many protoplanetary nebulae). X-rays in this energy range interacting with ice predominantly generate photoelectrons with the same energy. We have visited both an x-ray and electron irradiation facility to evaluate the experimental capabilities and limitations of these beams. A decision about the purchase of similar instrumentation should be made before the end of this research year.
    Reggie Hudson Reggie Hudson
    Project Investigator
    Marla Moore
    Project Investigator
    Objective 3.1
    Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts