Many of the molecules formed in the first steps of prebiotic astrochemistry are transient species and therefore present experimental challenges. Some of these species have been observed in the laboratory as the products of O(1D) insertion reactions in rare gas matrices. We use this highly exothermic process to produce transient molecules of importance to prebiotic astrochemistry. Current targets involve formation of aminomethanol (H2NCH2OH), carbonic acid (HOCOOH) and carbamic acid (H2NCOOH) via insertion into methylamine, formic acid and formamide, respectively.
In this design, the O(1D) is produced in a separate photolysis region before injection into the organic precursor. The O(1D) mixes with the organic precursor, insertion occurs, and the subsequent supersonic expansion quenches the excess vibrational energy of the product. This leads to longer product lifetimes and allows spectroscopic studies to be performed. The insertion can be optimized by varying the length of the photolysis region. This approach can also be used for kinetic studies of the insertion mechanism.