Identification of Complex Aromatic Molecules in Individual Interplanetary Dust Particles

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Science  29 Oct 1993:
Vol. 262, Issue 5134, pp. 721-725
DOI: 10.1126/science.262.5134.721


Seventeen stratospherically collected particles—eight of which are classified as interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), seven of which are classified as probable terrestrial contaminants, and two of which have uncertain origins—were studied with a microprobe two-step laser mass spectrometer. Many polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs) and their alkylated derivatives were identified in two of the eight IDPs. The PAHs observed include a high-mass envelope not found in meteorites or terrestrial contaminants and prominent odd-mass peaks suggestive of nitrogen-containing functional groups attached to aromatic chromophores. In addition, the complexity of the IDP mass spectra has no precedence in previous studies of meteorite samples or their acid residues. Extensive checks were performed to demonstrate that the PAH signals are not caused by terrestrial contaminants.