Acetonitrile cluster solvation in a cryogenic ethane-methane-propane liquid: Implications for Titan lake chemistry

LR Corrales and TD Yi and SK Trumbo and D Shalloway and JI Lunine and DA Usher, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 146, 104308 (2017).

DOI: 10.1063/1.4978395

The atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, exhibits interesting UV- and radiation-driven chemistry between nitrogen and methane, resulting in dipolar, nitrile-containing molecules. The assembly and subsequent solvation of such molecules in the alkane lakes and seas found on the moon's surface are of particular interest for investigating the possibility of prebiotic chemistry in Titan's hydrophobic seas. Here we characterize the solvation of acetonitrile, a product of Titan's atmospheric radiation chemistry tentatively detected on Titan's surface H. B. Niemann et al., Nature 438, 779-784 (2005), in an alkane mixture estimated to match a postulated composition of the smaller lakes during cycles of active drying and rewetting. Molecular dynamics simulations are employed to determine the potential of mean force of acetonitrile (CH3CN) clusters moving from the alkane vapor into the bulk liquid. We find that the clusters prefer the alkane liquid to the vapor and do not dissociate in the bulk liquid. This opens up the possibility that acetonitrile-based microscopic polar chemistry may be possible in the otherwise nonpolar Titan lakes. (c) 2017 Author(s). All article content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license

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