Computational Studies on Interstellar Molecular Species : From Formation to Detection
Etim, Emmanuel Edet
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Initiated with the purpose of assigning the Fraunhofer lines in the solar spectrum to atomic transitions in the 18th century, the collaboration between spectroscopists and astrophysicists has remained fruitful, successful and ever fascinating. This collaboration has resulted in the unique detection of over 200 different molecular species in the interstellar medium (ISM). These interstellar molecular species play significant roles in diverse fields such as atmospheric chemistry, astrochemistry, prebiotic chemistry, astrophysics, astronomy, astrobiology, etc, and in our understanding of the solar system ''the world around us''. This Thesis work focuses on understanding of the different aspects of the chemistry of the various classes of these molecular species. Chapter one starts with an historical perspective of what is now regarded as Molecular Astrophysics or Astrochemistry and discusses the interstellar medium and its properties; interstellar molecular species and their importance; molecular spectroscopy as an indispensible tool in interstellar chemistry and the different formation routes of these molecular species. It also discusses hydrogen bonding which is one of the most important of all the intermolecular interactions. The chapter ends by setting the stage for the present investigations. The chapter two of the Thesis saddled with the task of describing the methodology employed in this Thesis begins by setting the stage on the importance of computational chemistry in interstellar chemistry. It discusses the Gaussian 09 suite of programs and the various theoretical methods used in all the quantum chemical calculations reported in this Thesis. The chapter ends with a brief summary on the homebuilt Pulsed Nozzle Fourier Transform Microwave (PN-FTMW) spectrometer used for the preliminary studies on Isoprene...Argon weakly bound complex reported in the appendix. After the introductory chapters, chapter three begins with what is unarguably one of the most important classes of interstellar molecular species - 'interstellar isomers'. In this chapter, the Energy, Stability and Abundance (ESA) relationship existing among interstellar molecular species has been firmly established using accurate thermochemical parameters obtained with the composite models and reported observational data. From the relationship, “Interstellar abundances of related species are directly proportional to their stabilities in the absence of the effect of interstellar hydrogen bonding”. The immediate consequences of the relationship in addressing some of the questions in interstellar chemistry such as: Where are Cyclic Interstellar Molecules? What are the possible candidates for astronomical observation? Why are more Interstellar Cyanides than isocyanides? among others are briefly discussed. Following the ESA relationship, other studies addressing some of the whys and wherefores in interstellar chemistry are discussed in details. From ESA relationship, though there has not been any successful astronomical observation of any heterocycle, the ones so far searched remain the best candidates for astronomical observation in their respective isomeric groups. The observation of the first branched chain molecule in ISM is in agreement with the ESA relationship and the C5H9N isomers have been shown to contain potential branched chain interstellar molecules. That molecules with the C-C-O backbone have less potential of formation in ISM as compared to their counterparts with the C-O-C backbone has been demonstrated not to be true following the ESA relationship. A detailed investigation on the relationship between molecular partition function and astronomical detection of isomeric species (or related molecules) shows that there is no direct correlation between the two rather there is a direct link between the thermodynamic stability of the isomeric species (or related molecules) and their interstellar abundances which influences the astronomical observation of some isomers at the expense of others. Chapter four presents an interesting and a fascinating phenomenon among the interstellar molecular species as it discusses for the first time, the existence and effects of Interstellar Hydrogen Bonding. This interstellar hydrogen bonding is shown to be responsible for the deviations from thermodynamically controlled processes, delayed observation of the most stable isomers, unsuccessful observations of amino acids among other happenings in interstellar chemistry and related areas. On the prediction that ketenes are the right candidates for astronomical searches among their respective isomers, a ketenyl radical; HCCO has recently been detected in line with this prediction. The deviation from the rule that the ratio of an interstellar sulphur molecule to its oxygen analogue is close to the cosmic S/O ratio is well accounted for on the basis of hydrogen bonding on the surface of the dust grains. Detecting weakly bound complexes in ISM has not been a major interest in the field so far but the detectability of weakly bound complexes in ISM is very possible as discussed in this chapter. Following the conditions in which these complexes are observed in the terrestrial laboratory as compared to the ISM conditions; it suffices to say that weakly bound complexes are present and are detectable in ISM. They could even account for some of the 'U' lines. Chapter five of the Thesis discusses the Linear Interstellar Carbon Chains which are the dominant theme in interstellar chemistry accounting for over 20% of all the known interstellar and circumstellar molecular species. Accurate spectroscopic parameters within experimental accuracy of few kHz which are the indispensable tools for the astronomical observation of these molecular species; are obtained for over 200 different species from the various chains using an inexpensive combined experimental and theoretical approach. With the availability of the spectroscopic parameters; thermodynamics is utilized in accounting for the known systems and in examining the right candidates for astronomical searches. These molecular species are shown to also obey the ESA relationship observed for the isomeric species discussed in chapter three of this work. The effect of kinetics on the formation processes of these molecular species is well controlled by thermodynamics as discussed in this chapter. Finally, the application of these studies in reducing the 'U' lines and probing new molecular species has been briefly summarized. Chapter six discusses Interstellar Ions and Isotopologues which are two unique classes of interstellar molecular species. Different studies on interstellar ions and isotopologues are presented. From the studies on interstellar protonated species with over 100 molecular species; protonated species resulting from a high proton affinity prefers to remain protonated rather than transferring a proton and returning to its neutral form as compared to its analogue that gives rise to a lower proton affinity from the same neutral species. The studies on detectable interstellar anions account for the known interstellar anions and predict members of the C2nO-, C2nS-, C2n-1Si-, HC2nN-, CnP-, and C2n chains as outstanding candidates for astronomical observation including the higher members of the C2nH- and C2n-1N- groups whose lower members have been observed. From high level ab initio quantum chemical calculations; ZPE and Boltzmann factor have been used to explain the observed deuterium enhancement and the possibility of detecting more deuterated species in ISM. Though all the heterocycles that have so far been searched for in ISM have been shown to be the right candidates for astronomical observation as discussed in the ESA relationship, they have also been shown to be strongly bonded to the surface of the interstellar dust grains thereby reducing their abundances, thus, contributing to their unsuccessful detection except for furan which is less affected by hydrogen bonding. The D-analogues of the heterocycles are shown from the computed Boltzmann factor to be formed under the dense molecular cloud conditions where major deuterium fractionation dominates implying very high D/H ratio above the cosmic D/H ratio which suggests the detectability of these deuterated species. Chapter seven examines the isomerization of the most stable isomer (which is probably the most abundant) to the less stable isomer(s) as one of the plausible formation routes for interstellar molecular species. An extensive investigation on the isomerization enthalpies of 243 molecular species from 64 isomeric groups is reported. From the results, the high abundances of the most stable isomers coupled with the energy sources in interstellar medium drive the isomerization process even for relative enthalpy difference as high as 67.4 kcal/mol. Specifically, the cyanides and their corresponding isocyanides pairs appear to be effectively synthesized via this process. The following potential interstellar molecules; CNC, NCCP, c-C5H, methylene ketene, methyl Ketene, CH3SCH3, C5O, 1,1-ethanediol, propanoic acid, propan-2-ol and propanol are identified and discussed. In all the isomeric groups, isomerization appears to be an effective route for the formation of the less stable isomers (which are probably less abundant) from the most stable ones. Chapter eight summarizes the conclusions drawn from the different studies presented in this Thesis and also highlights some of the future directions of these studies. The first appendix presents the preliminary study on Isoprene...Ar weakly bound complex while the second appendix contains a study on interstellar C3S describing the importance of accurate dipole moment in calculating interstellar abundances of molecular species and in astrophysical and astronomical models.
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