Radiation chemistry in ammonia-water ices

J Chem Phys. 2010 Feb 7;132(5):054508. doi: 10.1063/1.3308484.

Abstract

We studied the effects of 100 keV proton irradiation on films of ammonia-water mixtures between 20 and 120 K. Irradiation destroys ammonia, leading to the formation and trapping of H(2), N(2), NO, and N(2)O, the formation of cavities containing radiolytic gases, and ejection of molecules by sputtering. Using infrared spectroscopy, we show that at all temperatures the destruction of ammonia is substantial, but at higher temperatures (120 K), it is nearly complete (approximately 97% destroyed) after a fluence of 10(16) ions/cm(2). Using mass spectroscopy and microbalance gravimetry, we measure the sputtering yield of our sample and the main components of the sputtered flux. We find that the sputtering yield depends on fluence. At low temperatures, the yield is very low initially and increases quadratically with fluence, while at 120 K the yield is constant and higher initially. The increase in the sputtering yield with fluence is explained by the formation and trapping of the ammonia decay products, N(2) and H(2), which are seen to be ejected from the ice at all temperatures.