Electron-induced origins of prebiotic building blocks of sugars: mechanism of self-reactions of a methanol anion dimer†
The elementary synthesis of prebiotic molecules has attracted vast attention in recent years. Due to their rich surface chemistry and lack of suitable atmosphere, comets represent an important host for such synthesis, especially since they are routinely irradiated with short wavelength electromagnetic radiation and energetic cosmological electrons. Using high-level electronic structure theory, we present the details of the reactivity associated with the electron-impact induced prebiotic synthesis of ethylene glycol (a carbohydrate building block) from elementary methanol. The results suggest that the experimentally observed intermediates and fragment products can be viably formed by both neutral excited-state chemistry and by dissociative electron attachment – highlighting the importance of a theoretical mapping of the relevant potential energy surfaces that ultimately act as an important guide to the experimental results.