Plasma processing of interstellar PAHs into solar system kerogen

Thomas J. Wdowiak*, Wei Lee, John Cronin, Luther W. Beegle, Michael S. Robinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Processes resulting in the formation of hydrocarbons of carbonaceous chondrites and the identity of the interstellar molecular precursors involved are an objective of im-estigations into the origin of the solar system and perhaps even life on earth. We have combined the resources and experience of an astronomer and physicists doing laboratory simulations with those of a chemical expert in the analysis of meteoritic hydrocarbons, in a project that investigated the conversion of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) formed in stellar atmospheres into alkanes found in meteorites. Plasma hydrogenation has been found in the University of Alabama Lit Birmingham Astrophysics Laboratory to produce from the. precursor PAH naphthalene, a new material having an I R absorption spectrum (Lee. W. and Wdowiak, T. J., Astrophys. J., 417, L49-L51, 1993) remarkably similar to that obtained at Arizona State University of the benzene-methanol extract of the Murchison meteorite (Cronin, J. R. and Pizzarello, S., Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 54, 2859-2868, 1990). There are astrophysical and meteoritic arguments for PAH species from extra-solar sources being incorporated into the solar nebula. where plasma hydrogenation is highly plausible. Conversion of PAHs into alkanes could also have occurred in the interstellar medium. The synthesis of laboratory analogs of meteoritic hydrocarbons through plasma hydrogenation of PAH species is underway, as is chemical analysis of those analogs. The objective is to clarify this heretofore uninvestigated process and to understand its role during the origin of the solar system as a mechanism of production of hydrocarbon species now found in meteorites. Results have been obtained in the form of time-of-flight spectroscopy and chemical analysis of the lab analog prepared from naphthalene.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1175-1182
Number of pages8
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number10-11
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1995

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