Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Alexander Mebel

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

John Zweibel

Third Advisor's Name

Yong Cai

Fourth Advisor's Name

David Chatfield

Fifth Advisor's Name

Jeffrey Joens


ab initio, quantum chemical, titan, ethynyl, cyano, unsaturated hydrocarbons, rrkm, potential energy surface

Date of Defense



An Ab Initio/RRKM study of the reaction mechanism and product branching ratios of neutral-radical ethynyl (C2H) and cyano (CN) radical species with unsaturated hydrocarbons is performed. The reactions studied apply to cold conditions such as planetary atmospheres including Titan, the Interstellar Medium (ISM), icy bodies and molecular clouds. The reactions of C2H and CN additions to gaseous unsaturated hydrocarbons are an active area of study. NASA’s Cassini/Huygens mission found a high concentration of C2H and CN from photolysis of ethyne (C2H2) and hydrogen cyanide (HCN), respectively, in the organic haze layers of the atmosphere of Titan. The reactions involved in the atmospheric chemistry of Titan lead to a vast array of larger, more complex intermediates and products and may also serve as a chemical model of Earth’s primordial atmospheric conditions. The C2H and CN additions are rapid and exothermic, and often occur barrierlessly to various carbon sites of unsaturated hydrocarbons. The reaction mechanism is proposed on the basis of the resulting potential energy surface (PES) that includes all the possible intermediates and transition states that can occur, and all the products that lie on the surface. The B3LYP/6-311g(d,p) level of theory is employed to determine optimized electronic structures, moments of inertia, vibrational frequencies, and zero-point energy. They are followed by single point higher-level CCSD(T)/cc-vtz calculations, including extrapolations to complete basis sets (CBS) of the reactants and products. A microcanonical RRKM study predicts single-collision (zero-pressure limit) rate constants of all reaction paths on the potential energy surface, which is then used to compute the branching ratios of the products that result. These theoretical calculations are conducted either jointly or in parallel to experimental work to elucidate the chemical composition of Titan’s atmosphere, the ISM, and cold celestial bodies.





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