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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been invoked in fundamental molecular mass growth processes in our galaxy. We provide compelling evidence of the formation of the very first ringed aromatic and building block of PAHs—benzene—via the self-recombination of two resonantly stabilized propargyl (C3H3) radicals in dilute environments using isomer-selective synchrotron-based mass spectrometry coupled to theoretical calculations. Along with benzene, three other structural isomers (1,5-hexadiyne, fulvene, and 2-ethynyl-1,3-butadiene) and o-benzyne are detected, and their branching ratios are quantified experimentally and verified with the aid of computational fluid dynamics and kinetic simulations. These results uncover molecular growth pathways not only in interstellar, circumstellar, and solar systems environments but also in combustion systems, which help us gain a better understanding of the hydrocarbon chemistry of our universe.
Zhao, Long; Lu, Wenchao; Ahmed, Musahid; Zagidullin, Marsel V.; Azyazov, Valeriy N.; Morozov, Alexander N.; Mebel, Alexander M.; and Kaiser, Ralf I., "Gas-phase synthesis of benzene via the propargyl radical self-reaction" (2021). All Faculty. 388.