Abstract

One possible origin of prebiotic organic material is that these compounds were formed via Fischer-Tropsch-type (FTT) reactions of carbon monoxide and hydrogen on silicate and oxide grains in the warm, inner-solar nebula. To investigate this possibility, an experimental system has been built in which the catalytic efficiency of different grain-analog materials can be tested. During such runs, the gas phase above these grain analogs is sampled using Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy. To provide quantitative estimates of the concentration of these gases, a technique in which high-resolution spectra of the gases are calculated using the High-Resolution Transmission Molecular Absorption (HITRAN) database is used. Next, these spectra are processed via a method that mimics the processes giving rise to the instrumental line shape of the FT-IR spectrometer, including apodization, self-apodization, and broadening due to the finite resolution. The result is a very close match between the measured and computed spectra. This technique was tested using four major gases found in the FTT reactions: carbon monoxide, methane, carbon dioxide, and water. For the ranges typical of the FTT reactions, the carbon monoxide results were found to be accurate to within 5% and the remaining gases accurate to within 10%. These spectra can then be used to generate synthetic calibration data, allowing the rapid computation of the gas concentrations in the FTT experiments.

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