Structural elucidation of soluble organic matter: Application to Titan's haze

Abstract : The origin and evolution of organic matter in the solar system intertwines astrobiology and planetary geochemistry issues. To observe the contribution of atmospheric processes in the formation of complex organic matter, one of the most intensively studied objects in the outer solar system is Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. Its reducing atmosphere of methane and nitrogen hosts a thick, permanent, nitrogen-rich, organic haze, whose complex composition remains largely unknown. Due to the measurement of species at large mass-to-charge ratio and infrared information from the Cassini-Huygens mission, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) based structure for this haze has been suggested. Here, we propose a snapshot of the global chemical structure based on the analysis of laboratory analogue of Titan's haze with ion mobility spectrometry coupled with mass spectrometry. This robust analysis, validated with other geochemical complex mixtures, such as petroleum, allows for the observation of the size and three-dimensional structure of detected species. By comparison, with standards molecules, we exclude several structures such as pure PolyHCN and pure polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to be present in the principal trend of the laboratory tholins. Using theoretical calculations, we propose a plausible structure consistent with our results, which is a branched triazine-pyrazole. We observe that the larger the aerosols molecules are, the more they tend towards a structure containing small aromatics cores linked together by short chains. We suggest that the use of such an analytical approach could help advance our understanding of other complex organic compounds in the Solar System such as soluble organic matter in meteorites.
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Submitted on : Monday, January 13, 2020 - 9:03:45 AM
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Julien Maillard, Sébastien Hupin, Nathalie Carrasco, Isabelle Schmitz-Afonso, Thomas Gautier, et al.. Structural elucidation of soluble organic matter: Application to Titan's haze. Icarus, Elsevier, 2020, 340 (April), pp.art. 113627. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2020.113627⟩. ⟨insu-02436390⟩

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