Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Alexander M. Mebel

Second Advisor's Name

Piero R. Gardinali

Third Advisor's Name

Xuewen Wang

Fourth Advisor's Name

David C. Chatfield

Fifth Advisor's Name

Jeffrey Joens


Aromatics, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, PAH, N-PACS, Nitrogen, Interstellar Space, Titan, Combustion

Date of Defense



Several different mechanisms leading to the formation of (substituted) naphthalene and azanaphthalenes were examined using theoretical quantum chemical calculations. As a result, a series of novel synthetic routes to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Nitrogen Containing Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds (N-PACs) have been proposed. On Earth, these aromatic compounds originate from incomplete combustion and are released into our environment, where they are known to be major pollutants, often with carcinogenic properties. In the atmosphere of a Saturn’s moon Titan, these PAH and N-PACs are believed to play a critical role in organic haze formation, as well as acting as chemical precursors to biologically relevant molecules. The theoretical calculations were performed by employing the ab initio G3(MP2,CC)/B3LYP/6-311G** method to effectively probe the Potential Energy Surfaces (PES) relevant to the PAH and N-PAC formation. Following the construction of the PES, Rice-Ramsperger-Kassel-Markus (RRKM) theory was used to evaluate all unimolecular rate constants as a function of collision energy under single-collision conditions. Branching ratios were then evaluated by solving phenomenological rate expressions for the various product concentrations. The most viable pathways to PAH and N-PAC formation were found to be those where the initial attack by the ethynyl (C2H) or cyano (CN) radical toward a unsaturated hydrocarbon molecule led to the formation of an intermediate which could not effectively lose a hydrogen atom. It is not until ring cyclization has occurred, that hydrogen elimination leads to a closed shell product. By quenching the possibility of the initial hydrogen atom elimination, one of the most competitive processes preventing the PAH or N-PAC formation was avoided, and the PAH or N-PAC formation was allowed to proceed. It is concluded that these considerations should be taken into account when attempting to explore any other potential routes towards aromatic compounds in cold environments, such as on Titan or in the interstellar medium.





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