Aerosol chemistry in Titan's ionosphere: simultaneous growth and etching processes

Abstract : Since the Cassini-CAPS measurements, organic aerosols are known to be present and formed at high altitudes in the diluted and partially ionized medium that is Titan's ionosphere [1]. This unexpected chemistry can be further investigated in the laboratory with plasma experiments simulating the complex ion-neutral chemistry starting from N2-CH4 [2]. Two sorts of solid organic samples can be produced in laboratory experiments simulating Titan's atmospheric reactivity: grains in the volume and thin films on the reactor walls. We expect that grains are more representative of Titan's atmospheric aerosols, but films are used to provide optical indices for radiative models of Titan's atmosphere.The aim of the present study is to address if these two sorts of analogues are chemically equivalent or not, when produced in the same N2-CH4 plasma discharge. The chemical compositions of both these materials are measured by using elemental analysis, XPS analysis and Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry. We find that films are homogeneous but significantly less rich in nitrogen and hydrogen than grains produced in the same experimental conditions. This surprising difference in their chemical compositions is explained by the efficient etching occurring on the films, which stay in the discharge during the whole plasma duration, whereas the grains are ejected after a few minutes [3]. The impact for our understanding of Titan's aerosols chemical composition is important. Our study shows that chemical growth and etching process are simultaneously at stake in Titan's ionosphere. The more the aerosols stay in the ionosphere, the more graphitized they get through etching process. In order to infer Titan's aerosols composition, our work highlights a need for constraints on the residence time of aerosols in Titan's ionosphere. [1] Waite et al. (2009) Science , 316, p. 870[2] Szopa et al. (2006) PSS, 54, p. 394[3] Carrasco et al. (2016) PSS, 128, p. 52
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Submitted on : Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 5:15:20 PM
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Nathalie Carrasco, Guy Cernogora, François Jomard, Arnaud Etcheberry, Jackie Vigneron. Aerosol chemistry in Titan's ionosphere: simultaneous growth and etching processes. DPS 48 / EPSC 11 (Division for Planetary Sciences and the European Planetary Science Congress), Oct 2016, Pasadena, United States. ⟨insu-01393001⟩

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