Methanol Formation via Oxygen Insertion Chemistry in Ice

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
July 6, 2017
Filed under
Methanol Formation via Oxygen Insertion Chemistry in Ice

We present experimental constraints on the insertion of oxygen atoms into methane to form methanol in astrophysical ice analogs.

In gas-phase and theoretical studies this process has previously been demonstrated to have a very low or non-existent energy barrier, but the energetics and mechanisms have not yet been characterized in the solid state. We use a deuterium UV lamp filtered by a sapphire window to selectively dissociate O2 within a mixture of O2:CH4 and observe efficient production of CH3OH via O(1D) insertion. CH3OH growth curves are fit with a kinetic model, and we observe no temperature dependence of the reaction rate constant at temperatures below the oxygen desorption temperature of 25K.

Through an analysis of side products we determine the branching ratio of ice-phase oxygen insertion into CH4 : ~65% of insertions lead to CH3OH with the remainder leading instead to H2CO formation. There is no evidence for CH3 or OH radical formation, indicating that the fragmentation is not an important channel and that insertions typically lead to increased chemical complexity.

CH3OH formation from O2 and CH4 diluted in a CO-dominated ice similarly shows no temperature dependence, consistent with expectations that insertion proceeds with a small or non-existent barrier. Oxygen insertion chemistry in ices should therefore be efficient under low-temperature ISM-like conditions, and could provide an important channel to complex organic molecule formation on grain surfaces in cold interstellar regions such as cloud cores and protoplanetary disk midplanes.

Jennifer B. Bergner, Karin I. Oberg, Mahesh Rajappan
(Submitted on 29 Jun 2017)

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA)
Cite as: arXiv:1707.01120 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1707.01120v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Jennifer Bergner
[v1] Thu, 29 Jun 2017 21:15:06 GMT (1656kb,D)

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