Direct Detection of C4H2 Photochemical Products: Possible Routes to Complex Hydrocarbons in Planetary Atmospheres

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Science  04 Dec 1992:
Vol. 258, Issue 5088, pp. 1630-1633
DOI: 10.1126/science.258.5088.1630


The photochemistry of diacetylene (C4H2), the largest hydrocarbon to be unambiguously identified in planetary atmospheres, is of considerable importance to understanding the mechanisms by which complex molecules are formed in the solar system. In this work, the primary products of C4H2's ultraviolet photochemistry were determined in a two-laser pump-probe scheme in which the products of C4H2 photoexcitation are detected by vacuum ultraviolet photoionization in a time-of-flight mass spectrometer. Three larger hydrocarbon primary products were observed with good yield in the C4H2* + C4H2 reaction: C6H2, C812, and C8H3. Neither C6H2 nor C8H3 is anticipated by current photochemical models of the atmospheres of Titan, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Triton. The free hydrogen atoms that are released during the formation of the C8H3 and C8H2 products also may partially offset the role of C4H2 in catalysing the recombination of free hydrogen atoms in the planetary atmospheres.