Experimental Studies of Ion-Neutral Chemistry Related to the Extraterrestrial Environment
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Kinetic data is presented for a variety of ion-neutral reactions which are relevant to the atmosphere of Titan and to the chemistry occurring in interstellar clouds. The data were recorded with a Selected Ion Flow Tube (SIFT) operating at room temperature (294 ± 4 K) and at a pressure of 0.46 Torr. Results of the recent Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan have identified several species in the atmosphere of Titan not predicted by pre-Cassini models of the atmosphere. In order to determine the fate of three of these species (methylenimine, propionitrile and cyanodiacetylene) in Titan's ionosphere, their reactivity with the principal ions in Titan's upper ionosphere has been examined. As expected, collision rate proton transfer reactions dominate the chemistry with association channels also observed with many of the hydrocarbon ions. The results of the Cassini mission also identified several individual reactions as being of potential importance to models of Titan's atmosphere and this chemistry has also been examined. The above studies are also relevant to the interstellar medium where each of the neutral reactants have also been detected. The results of some proton transfer equilibrium studies are also presented. The gas phase basicities of propyne and acetylene have been determined to be 681 kJ mol⁻¹ and 617.4 kJ mol⁻¹ respectively. Their relative proton affinities can be estimated from these values. A combined experimental/theoretical study of the proton affinity of cyanodiacetylene (HC₅N) has enabled this value to be estimated at 770 ± 20 kJ mol⁻¹. Details of an attempt to complete the first laboratory measurement of the crucial reaction between H₃⁺ and atomic carbon are presented. The generation of atomic carbon in sufficient quantities for reaction in the SIFT was not possible with the microwave discharge source used. Other generation methods have also been explored with the laser photolysis of carbon suboxide expected to provide a possible solution to the problems encountered. The results of an investigation into the applicability of lithium ions (Li⁺) to SIFT-MS are presented. The lithium ions associated with each of the twenty-one neutral analytes examined to form pseudo-molecular ions. The association reactions were rapid (k ~ 10⁻⁹ cm³ s⁻¹) for large hydrocarbons but were much slower for smaller analytes (k < 10⁻¹¹ cm³ s⁻¹). In order to clarify some unusual experimental observations, the effect of water molecules on the observed chemistry has been examined in detail. The measured chemistry has important consequences for the applicability of Li⁺ to SIFT-MS where the presence and detection of an identifiable ion of the analyte is essential. Details of new SIFT operating software which can be run on a modern computer are given. Mass spectra and kinetic data recorded with the new software are also presented.