Thermal degradation of organics for pyrolysis in space: Titan’s atmospheric aerosol case study

Abstract : Pyrolysis coupled with mass spectry is among the instrumentation the most implemented in planetary exploration probes to analyze the chemical composition of extraterrestrial solid samples. It is used to analyze the volatile species which can be thermally extracted from the samples, including the organic fraction which is of primary interest for astrobiological purposes. However the thermal degradation of these organic materials, which can be very complex in nature or very different from organics commonly present on Earth, is badly known. This leads to a restriction in the optimization of space instrumentation, and in the interpretation of the measurements. In the present work we propose a complete overview of the thermal degradation processes studied on a model of complex organic material produced in an extraterrestrial environment, i.e. laboratory analogues of Titan’s atmospheric aerosols. The thermal evolution of the studied analogues is monitored by following their mass loss, the emitted heating flux, and the evolution of their chemical composition through infrared spectroscopy and elemental analysis. The gaseous products released from the material are also analyzed by mass spectrometry, allowing to better constrain the mechanisms of chemical evolution of the samples. The complex organic material analyzed is found not to be fully decomposed when heated up to about 800°C, with the evidence that nitrogen is still deeply incorporated in the remaining graphitic carbon nitride residue. The most appropriate pyrolysis temperature to chemically probe the studied material is found to be about 450°C because at this temperature are detected the largest gaseous molecules which should be the most representative ones of the material pyrolyzed.
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Submitted on : Sunday, October 19, 2014 - 12:21:48 PM
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Jing He, Arnaud Buch, Nathalie Carrasco, Cyril Szopa. Thermal degradation of organics for pyrolysis in space: Titan’s atmospheric aerosol case study. Icarus, Elsevier, 2015, 248, pp.205-212. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2014.10.010⟩. ⟨hal-01075658⟩

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