Non-thermal ion desorption from an acetonitrile (CH3CN) astrophysical ice analogue studied by electron stimulated ion desorption†
The incidence of high-energy radiation onto icy surfaces constitutes an important route for leading new neutral or ionized molecular species back to the gas phase in interstellar and circumstellar environments, especially where thermal desorption is negligible. In order to simulate such processes, an acetonitrile ice (CH3CN) frozen at 120 K is bombarded by high energy electrons, and the desorbing positive ions are analyzed by time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOF-MS). Several fragment and cluster ions were identified, including the Hn=1–3+, CHn=0–3+/NHn=0–1+; C2Hn=0–3+/CHn=0–3N+, C2Hn=0–6N+ ion series and the ion clusters (CH3CN)n=1–2+ and (CH3CN)n=1–2H+. The energy dependence on the positive ion desorption yield indicates that ion desorption is initiated by Coulomb explosion following Auger electronic decay. The results presented here suggest that non-thermal desorption processes, such as desorption induced by electronic transitions (DIET) may be responsible for delivering neutral and ionic fragments from simple nitrile-bearing ices to the gas-phase, contributing to the production of more complex molecules. The derived desorption yields per electron impact may contribute to chemical evolution models in different cold astrophysical objects, especially where the abundance of CH3CN is expected to be high.