Three body photodissociation of the water molecule and its implications for prebiotic oxygen production

Yao Chang, Yong Yu, Feng An, Zijie Luo, Donghui Quan, Xia Zhang, Xixi Hu, Qinming Li, Jiayue Yang, Zhichao Chen, Li Che, Weiqing Zhang, Guorong Wu, Daiqian Xie, Michael N R Ashfold, Kaijun Yuan, Xueming Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

The provenance of oxygen on the Earth and other planets in the Solar System is a fundamental issue. It has been widely accepted that the only prebiotic pathway to produce oxygen in the Earth’s primitive atmosphere was via vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) photodissociation of CO2 and subsequent two O atom recombination. Here, we provide experimental evidence of three-body dissociation (TBD) of H2O to produce O atoms in both 1D and 3P states upon VUV excitation using a tunable VUV free electron laser. Experimental results show that the TBD is the dominant pathway in the VUV H2O photochemistry at wavelengths between 90 and 107.4 nm. The relative abundance of water in the interstellar space with its exposure to the intense VUV radiation suggests that the TBD of H2O and subsequent O atom recombination should be an important prebiotic O2-production, which may need to be incorporated into interstellar photochemical models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2476 (2021)
Number of pages6
JournalNature Communications
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • astronomy and astrophysics
  • excited states
  • photochemistry

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