Characterization of the Chemical Composition of TITAN’S Aerosols Analogues with a Systematic Pyrolysis-GCMS Analysis Approach

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Marietta Morisson1, Cyril Szopa2, Nathalie Carrasco3, Arnaud Buch1 and Thomas Gautier4, (1)LGPM Laboratoire Génie des Procédés et les Matériaux, Châtenay-Malabry Cedex, France, (2)LATMOS Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales, Paris Cedex 05, France, (3)Univ Versailles St Quentin, Guyancourt, France, (4)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States
Pyrolysis coupled to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry is used for long to characterize the chemical composition and structure of analogues of Titan’s aerosols (tholins). However, a review of the characterizations of tholins done for 30 years with this technique show that the nature of the tholins were quite different in the different studies, and the analytical conditions used for Pyr-GCMS analysis were generally very limited. The differences observed in the results obtained in these different studies are therefore difficult to attribute either to the process used to produce the tholins, or to the analytical conditions used. These are the reasons we performed a systematic study on tholins produced uniquely with the PAMPRE laboratory experiment based on a RF cold plasma, to determine the composition and structure of these analogues of Titan’s aerosols, and to estimate the difference of properties induced by a variation of the content of CH4 in the initial gaseous mixture. To take the whole benefit of the pyr-GCMS technique, we performed analyses of tholins by studying the influence of all the analytical parameters. Among the main parameters, we studied : the influence of the temperature of pyrolysis on the nature of the gaseous compounds released by the solid tholins; the program of temperature used to heat the GC column in order to find a tradeoff for the analysis of both the lightest and heaviest compounds released by the sample; the separation of the same pyrolysates with two different columns. Moreover, the identification of numerous isomers was confirmed using analytical standards.

WIth this study, we managed to strictly characterize a wide range of pyrolyzates for the three tholins sample studied. Most of these species are nitrogen bearing organics of various natures. More than the detection of pyrolyzates which have never been reported in previous studies, we showed that even if numerous pyrolysates were common between the three types of tholins studied, several species seem rather specific to a given initial gaseous mixture. After giving a brief status of the state of the art of this type of studies, we will present the results we obtained, which allow to give a better view of the composition and structure of Titan’s tholins, and the influence of the content of methane in the initial gaseous mixture on it.