The APSIS EXPERIMENT: Simulating the VUV Photochemistry of the Upper Atmosphere of Titan

Abstract : The Cassini mission around Titan revealed that the interaction between the N2 and CH4 molecules and the solar VUV radiation leads to a complex chemistry above an altitude of 800km with the detection of heavy organic molecules like benzene (C6H6). This is consistent with an initiation of the aerosols in Titan’s upper atmosphere. The presence of those molecules makes Titan a natural laboratory to witness and understand prebiotic-like chemistry but despite all the data collected, all the possible photochemical processes in such a hydrocarbon-nitrogen-rich environment are not precisely understood. This is why Titan’s atmospheric chemistry experiments are of high interest, especially those focusing on the photochemistry as most of the Titan-like experiments are based on N2-CH4 plasma techniques. In order to reproduce this VUV photochemistry of N2 and CH4, we designed a photochemical reactor named APSIS which is to be coupled window-less with a VUV photon source as N2 needs wavelengths shorter than 100 nm in order to be dissociated. Those wavelengths are available at synchrotron beamlines but are challenging to obtain with common laboratory discharge lamps. At LATMOS, we developed a table-top VUV window-less source using noble gases for the micro-wave discharge. We started with Neon, as it has two resonance lines at 73.6 and 74.3 nm which allow us to dissociate and/or ionize both CH4 and N2. We will present here our first experimental results obtained with APSIS coupled with this VUV source and then discuss them regarding the Cassini data and other previous laboratory photochemical studies.
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Sarah Tigrine, Nathalie Carrasco, Ludovic Vettier, Olivia Chitarra, Guy Cernogora. The APSIS EXPERIMENT: Simulating the VUV Photochemistry of the Upper Atmosphere of Titan. Titan Aeronomy and Climate (TAC) Workshop, Jun 2016, Reims, France. ⟨http://planeto.univ-reims.fr/tac/⟩. ⟨insu-01348915⟩

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