Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

University of Hawai'i at Manoa team unravels the chemistry of Titan's hazy atmosphere

16.09.2009
A team of University of Hawai'i at Mânoa researchers led by Ralf Kaiser, physical chemist at UH Mânoa, unraveled the chemical evolution of the orange-brownish colored atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan, the only solar system body besides Venus and Earth with a solid surface and thick atmosphere.

The UH Mânoa team, including Xibin Gu and Seol Kim, conducted simulation experiments mimicking the chemical reactions in Titan's atmosphere utilizing crossed molecular beams in which the consequence of a single collision between molecules can be followed.

The team's experiments indicate that triacetylene can be formed by a single collision of a "radical" ethynyl molecule and a diacetylene molecule. An ethynyl radical is produced in Titan's atmosphere by the photodissociation of acetylene by ultraviolet light. Photodissociation is a process in which a chemical compound is broken down by photons.

"Surprisingly, the photochemical models show inconsistent mechanisms for the production of polyynes," said Kaiser, who is the principal investigator of this study.

The mechanism involved in the formation of triacetylene, was also confirmed by accompanying theoretical calculations by Alexander Mebel, a theoretical chemist at Florida International University. These theoretical computations also provide the 3D distribution of electrons in atoms and thus the overall energy level of a molecule. To apply these findings to the real atmosphere of Titan, Danie Liang and Yuk Yung, planetary scientists at Taiwan's Academia Sinica and California Institute of Technology (Caltech), respectively, performed photochemical modeling studies of Titan's atmosphere. All data together suggest that triacetylene may serve as a building block to form more complex and longer polyynes and produce potential precursors for the aerosol-based layers of haze surrounding Titan.

The study demonstrated for the first time that a sensible combination of laboratory simulation experiments with theory and modeling studies can shed light on decade old unsolved problems crucial to understand the origin and chemical evolution of the solar system. The researchers hope to unravel next the mystery of the missing ethane lakes on Titan – postulated to exist for half a century, but not detected conclusively within the framework of the Cassini-Huygens mission.

In the future, the UH Mânoa team will combine the research results with terrestrial-based observations of Titan's atmosphere. Alan Tokunaga, astronomer at UH Mânoa's Institute for Astronomy, and Henry Roe from Lowell Observatory in Arizona, are currently collecting observational data using the NASA infrared telescope facility on the snowcapped peak of Mauna Kea.

Supported with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the team's article "Chemical dynamics of triacetylene formation and implications to the synthesis of polyynes in Titan's atmosphere" is published in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/09/11/0900525106.abstract.

The University of Hawai`i at Mânoa serves approximately 20,000 students pursuing 225 different degrees. Coming from every Hawaiian island, every state in the nation, and more than 100 countries, UH Mânoa students matriculate in an enriching environment for the global exchange of ideas. For more information, visit http://manoa.hawaii.edu.

Ralf Kaiser | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hawaii.edu
http://manoa.hawaii.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Tracing aromatic molecules in the early universe
23.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht New study maps space dust in 3-D
23.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>