Photodissociation of the diacetylene dimer and implications for hydrocarbon growth in Titan's atmosphere

Cunshun Huang, Fangtong Zhang, Ralf I. Kaiser, Vadim V. Kislov, Alexander M. Mebel, Ruchira Silva, Wilson K. Gichuhi, Arthur G. Suits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The surface of Titan is obscured by multiple aerosol layers whose composition and formation mechanism have remained poorly understood. These organic haze layers are believed to arise from photolysis and electron impact triggered chemistry in the dense nitrogen (N2) and methane (CH 4) atmosphere involving highly unsaturated hydrocarbon molecules such as acetylene (HCCH), diacetylene (HCCCCH), and triacetylene (HCCCCCCH). Here we show via laboratory studies combined with electronic structure calculations that the photodissociation of the diacetylene dimer ((HCCCCH)2) readily initiates atomic hydrogen loss and atomic hydrogen transfer reactions forming two prototypes of resonantly stabilized free radicals, C 4H3 and C8H3, respectively. These structures represent hydrogenated polyynes which can neither be synthesized via traditional photodissociation pathways of the monomer nor via hydrogen addition to the polyynes. The photodissociation dynamics of mixed dimers involving acetylene, diacetylene, and even triacetylene present a novel, hitherto overlooked reaction class and show the potential to synthesize more complex, resonantly stabilized free radicals considered to be major building blocks to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Titan's low-temperature atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1249-1255
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Astrochemistry
  • ISM: clouds
  • Planets and satellites: general
  • Planets and satellites: individual (Saturn, Titan)


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