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 Matter falling into a black hole at 30 percent of the speed of light
24.09.2018 | Royal Astronomical Society

nachricht Scientists solve the golden puzzle of calaverite
24.09.2018 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

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: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.

This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.

"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.

Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

Im Focus: Finding Nemo's genes

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Matter falling into a black hole at 30 percent of the speed of light

24.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA balloon mission captures electric blue clouds

24.09.2018 | Earth Sciences

New way to target advanced breast cancers

24.09.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>