Reaction dynamics in astrochemistry: low-temperature pathways to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the interstellar medium

Annu Rev Phys Chem. 2015 Apr;66:43-67. doi: 10.1146/annurev-physchem-040214-121502. Epub 2014 Nov 20.


Bimolecular reactions of phenyl-type radicals with the C4 and C5 hydrocarbons vinylacetylene and (methyl-substituted) 1,3-butadiene have been found to synthesize polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) with naphthalene and 1,4-dihydronaphthalene cores in exoergic and entrance barrierless reactions under single-collision conditions. The reaction mechanism involves the initial formation of a van der Waals complex and addition of a phenyl-type radical to the C1 position of a vinyl-type group through a submerged barrier. Investigations suggest that in the hydrocarbon reactant, the vinyl-type group must be in conjugation with a -C≡CH or -HC=CH2 group to form a resonantly stabilized free radical intermediate, which eventually isomerizes to a cyclic intermediate followed by hydrogen loss and aromatization (PAH formation). The vinylacetylene-mediated formation of PAHs might be expanded to more complex PAHs, such as anthracene and phenanthrene, in cold molecular clouds via barrierless reactions involving phenyl-type radicals, such as naphthyl, which cannot be accounted for by the classical hydrogen abstraction-acetylene addition mechanism.

Keywords: ISM; aromaticity; cold molecular clouds; neutral-neutral reactions; nonequilibrium chemistry; resonantly stabilized free radical.