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Organic syntheses from CH4−N2 atmospheres: Implications for Titan


Numerous experiments have already been performed, simulating the evolution of gaseous mixtures containing CH4 when submitted to energy flux. From their results, it appears that a variety of organic compounds, including unsaturated hydrocarbons and nitriles such as HCN, can be synthesized into noticeable amounts from CH4−N2 mixtures. In particular, systematic studies of the influence of the composition of the mixture on the nature and amount of synthesized compounds show that organic volatile nitriles, and particularly cyanoacetylene and cyanogen, are formed only in media rich in nitrogen. Those nitriles have been identified very recently in the atmosphere of Titan, and thus, data from such laboratory experiments may provide important indirect information on the organic chemistry occuring at the periphery of this satellite of Saturn. However, during these experiments, there is a continuous formation and accumulation of molecular hydrogen, which does not occur in the atmosphere of Titan, because of H2 escape. In order to reassess the data already available from this type of laboratory studies, experiments on CH4−N2 atmospheres, with and without H2 escape, have been recently performed. The influence of this parameter on the chemical evolution of the atmosphere and on the nature and relative quantities of organic compounds has been studied.

After reviewing these experiments, implications of the obtained results on the organic chemistry at the periphery of Titan are discussed.

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Raulin, F., Mourey, D. & Toupance, G. Organic syntheses from CH4−N2 atmospheres: Implications for Titan. Origins Life Evol Biosphere 12, 267–279 (1982).

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  • Titan
  • Hydrocarbon
  • Geochemistry
  • Organic Compound
  • Nitrile