Methane as a reddish coating agent

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  • Per Nornberg
  • Kai Finster
  • Jan Thogersen
  • Thaddeus W. Golbek
  • Tobias Weidner
  • Hassenkam, Tue
  • Walter Goetz
  • Mathias Oehlke
  • Svend J. Knak Jensen

Experiments in quartz ampoules that simulate the saltation of quartz grains in a methane atmosphere show that the solid phase acquires a reddish color, reminiscent of the color observed on Triton, Pluto, and Charon. Reflection spectroscopy of the coated grains show a wide, continuous absorption spectrum peaking at near-UV wavelengths, in line with the reddish color. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy indicates the grains are coated with a substance containing C-C and C-O bonds, and estimates the average thickness of the surface layer to 2.3 angstrom. Solid state Raman measurements of the coating shows a transition at 1540 cm(-1). A model is proposed to describe these measurements. The model is a polydiene, anchored to the quartz surface. Electron structure calculations show that a polydiene with around 8 CH units reproduces the measurements. AFM-IR experiments support this result. Our findings suggest a pathway for synthesis of complex molecules with C = C bonds on planets and moons with a solid surface and a methane-containing atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115023
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

    Research areas

  • Satellites, Surfaces, Spectroscopy, Atmospheres, Chemistry, Prebiotic chemistry, EXCITED-STATES, PHOTOCHEMISTRY, TRITON, PLUTO

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