Formation of complex organic molecules in methanol and methanol–carbon monoxide ices exposed to ionizing radiation – a combined FTIR and reflectron time-of-flight mass spectrometry study†
The radiation induced chemical processing of methanol and methanol–carbon monoxide ices at 5.5 K exposed to ionizing radiation in the form of energetic electrons and subsequent temperature programmed desorption is reported in this study. The endogenous formation of complex organic molecules was monitored online and in situ via infrared spectroscopy in the solid state and post irradiation with temperature programmed desorption (TPD) using highly sensitive reflectron time-of-flight (ReTOF) mass spectrometry coupled with single photoionization at 10.49 eV. Infrared spectroscopic analysis of the processed ice systems resulted in the identification of simple molecules including the hydroxymethyl radical (CH2OH), formyl radical (HCO), methane (CH4), formaldehyde (H2CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), ethylene glycol (HOCH2CH2OH), glycolaldehyde (HOCH2CHO), methyl formate (HCOOCH3), and ketene (H2CCO). In addition, ReTOF mass spectrometry of subliming molecules following temperature programmed desorption definitely identified several closed shell C/H/O bearing organics including ketene (H2CCO), acetaldehyde (CH3COH), ethanol (C2H5OH), dimethyl ether (CH3OCH3), glyoxal (HCOCOH), glycolaldehyde (HOCH2CHO), ethene-1,2-diol (HOCHCHOH), ethylene glycol (HOCH2CH2OH), methoxy methanol (CH3OCH2OH) and glycerol (CH2OHCHOHCH2OH) in the processed ice systems. Additionally, an abundant amount of molecules yet to be specifically identified were observed sublimating from the irradiated ices including isomers with the formula C3H(x=4,6,8)O, C4H(x=8,10)O, C3H(x=4,6,8)O2, C4H(x=6,8)O2, C3H(x=4,6)O3, C4H8O3, C4H(x=4,6,8)O4, C5H(x=6,8)O4 and C5H(x=6,8)O5. The last group of molecules containing four to five oxygen atoms observed sublimating from the processed ice samples include an astrobiologically important class of sugars relevant to RNA, phospholipids and energy storage. Experiments are currently being designed to elucidate their chemical structure. In addition, several reaction pathways were identified in the irradiated ices of mixed isotopes based upon the results of both in situ FTIR analysis and TPD ReTOF gas phase analysis. In general, the results of this study provide crucial information on the formation of a variety of classes of organics including alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, esters, ethers, and sugars within the bulk ices upon exposure to ionizing radiation that are relevant to the molecular clouds within the interstellar medium.