In situ analysis of Titan's tholins by Laser 2 steps Desorption Ionisation

Abstract : The main objective of the whole project developed in collaboration (LISA/LATMOS) is to provide a better understanding of the chemical composition of Titan aerosols laboratory analogs, called tholins, and thereby of their formation pathways. The tholins are produced in the PAMPRE reactor (French acronyme for Aerosols Microgravity Production by Reactives Plasmas) developed at LATMOS. These tholins are generated in levitation (wall effects are thus limited) in a low pressure radiofrequency plasma. Up to now, the determination of the physical and chemical properties of these tholins was achieved after their collection and ex-situ analysis by several methods. Their bulk composition was then determined but their insoluble part is still unknown. Other studies were performed after the transfer of the soluble part of the aerosols to different analytical instruments. Therefore, possible artifacts could have influenced the results. We present the SMARD (a French acronym for Mass Spectrometry of Aerosols by InfraRed Laser Desorption) program. A challenging issue of our work is to perform the soluble and unsoluble parts of PAMPRE tholins' analysis in real time and in situ. The coupling of the PAMPRE reactor to a unique instrument (Single Particle Laser Ablation Mass Spectrometry) developed at LISA should allow determining in real time and in situ the characteristics (chemical composition together with granulometry) of the nanometric aerosols. The later are introduced in the analytical instrument using an aerodynamic lens device. Their detection and aerodynamic diameter are determined using two continuous diode lasers operating at λ = 403 nm. Then, the L2DI (Laser 2 steps Desorption Ionisation) technique is used in order to access to the chemical composition of individual particles: they are vaporized using a 10 μm CO2 pulsed laser and the gas produced is then ionized by a 248 nm KrF Excimer laser. Finally, the molecular ions are analyzed by a 1 m linear time-of-flight mass spectrometer. As a first step, tests have been realized using a model of aerosols particles [Dioctylphthalate, C6H4(COOC8H17)2, PM = 390] as well as tholins which have been solubilized in water. Both types of particles have been introduced in the system via a nebulizer placed at the entrance of the aerodynamic lens device. The results, that demonstrate the feasibility of the L2DI technique, will be presented. Aware that the KrF Excimer laser might induce dissociative ionization and only allow to detect aromatic molecular compounds, we plan to use a VUV (λ = 121.56 nm) laser. This would promote direct ionization (one photon process) of all kinds of species according to their respective threshold. The final step will be to directly analyze the tholins generated in the PAMPRE reactor.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - 3:11:53 PM
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Y. Benilan, Nathalie Carrasco, Guy Cernogora, M. Gazeau, Ahmed Mahjoub, et al.. In situ analysis of Titan's tholins by Laser 2 steps Desorption Ionisation. American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2013, Dec 2013, San Francisco, United States. pp.P53C-1884. ⟨hal-01067996⟩

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