20-EPN-016: Formation and fate of methyl formate isomers in space
September 29, 2021

20-EPN-016: Formation and fate of methyl formate isomers in space

Virtual visit by Dr Sergio Ioppolo (Queen Mary University of London, UK) to TA2.11 Atomki Ice Chamber for Astrophysics / Astrochemistry (ICA) (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 12 October 2020 – 31 March 2021

Report Summary: All isomers of C2H4O2, i.e. glycolaldehyde (HCOCH2OH), acetic acid (CH3COOH) and methyl formate (HCOOCH3), have been observed abundantly around the Galactic center, in dark clouds, and hot cores of the interstellar medium (ISM), as well as in some minor ice objects of the Solar System. However, their exact gas-grain formation and destruction pathway is still under debate. According to El-Abd et al. (2019), the observed column densities of methyl formate and acetic acid are well-correlated, and are likely simply tracking the relative total gas mass in star forming regions. Methyl formate and glycolaldehyde, however, display a stark dichotomy in their relative column densities. The latter findingsuggests that different formation/destruction routes are at play for the three isomers. To date, there is a strong laboratory evidence for an efficient production of glycolaldehyde, methyl formate, and acetic acid in the ISM (Gerakines et al. 1996; Bennett and Kaiser 2007; Modica et al. 2012).

During the TA 20-EPN-016 at the ion accelerator facility Atomki in Debrecen (Hungary), we have performed a systematic set of experiments using the novel ultrahigh vacuum ICA end station to investigate the formation and destruction pathways of C2H4O2 isomers and a variety of other interstellar complex organic molecules. The experimental campaign revealed to be successful as all the planned experiments were performed. Results aided the design of new potential key experiments that will be included in a future follow-up beamtime bid at the facility.