Trapping in water - An important prerequisite for complex reactivity in astrophysical ices: The case of acetone (CH<inf>3</inf>)<inf>2</inf>C = O and ammonia NH<inf>3</inf>

Aurélien Fresneau, Grégoire Danger, Albert Rimola, Patrice Theule, Fabrice Duvernay, Thierry Chiavassa

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Water is the most abundant compound in interstellar and cometary ices. Laboratory experiments on ice analogues have shown that water has a great influence on the chemical activity of these ices. In this study, we investigated the reactivity of acetone-ammonia ices, showing that water is an essential component in chemical reactions with high activation energies. In a water-free binary ice, acetone and ammonia do not react due to high activation energy, as the reactants desorb before reacting (at 120 and 140 K, respectively). By contrast, our study shows that under experimental conditions of ~150 K, this reaction does occur in the presence of water. Here, water traps reactants in the solid phase above their desorption temperatures, allowing them to gather thermal energy as the reaction proceeds. Using infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry associated with isotopic labelling, as well as quantum chemical calculations, 2-aminopropan-2-ol (2HN-C(CH3)2-OH) was identified as the acetone-ammonia reaction product. The formation of this product may represent the first step towards formation of 2-aminoisobutyric acid (AIB) in the Strecker synthesis. The activation energy for the formation of 2-aminopropan-2-ol was measured to be 42 ± 3 kJ mol-1, while its desorption energy equalled 61.3 ± 0.1 kJ mol-1. Our work demonstrates that astrophysical water, rather than being a non-thermally reactive species, is crucial for the evolution of complex chemistry occurring in the Universe. © 2014 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2991-3000
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Astrochemistry
  • Comets: general
  • Methods: laboratory
  • Molecular data
  • Molecular processes


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