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Orbitrap Mass Analyzer : a tool for Titan complex molecular content exploration

Abstract : The Cassini-Huygens measurements show the existence of very large molecular structures in Titan's atmosphere as well as on its surface in the form of dunes deposits or lakes, at levels that can be sampled directly by spacecraft in the upper atmosphere/ionosphere, balloon, or lander. We do not know the nature and structure of most of these molecules, but they are organic, i.e. containing C, H, N, and potentially O. The presence of cyclic molecules, amines, hydrocarbons, and oxygen suggests that molecules similar to biological building blocks on Earth could be formed. Titan is therefore a unique opportunity to study a phase of pre-biotic chemistry, occurring right now. The Cassini-Huygens instruments already showed that their analytical performances are insufficient to characterize the very complex medium they probe. It is therefore necessary to develop new instrumentation to improve the description of the molecular structures that are produced. Mass spectrometry, by its ability to analyse and quantify species from almost any type of sample (provided the appropriate sampling and ionizing method is used) is an excellent tool to study the complex mixtures expected on Titan (1). The ability then to assign molecular formula to masses depends on the resolution of the mass analyser; it requests higher resolution mass analysers than those of Cassini/ Huygens. As already stated in the TSSM study, to go back to Titan, a high-resolution mass spectrometer will be mandatory. We develop the concept of mass analyser for space applications that is lightweight and provides ultrahigh resolving power capabilities (M/ΔM beyond 105 up to m/z 400): the Orbitrap. The Orbitrap mass analyser concept was demonstrated in 2000 (2). Since 2009, CNES has funded an R&T program in order to study the space applications of the concept. A consortium of 4 laboratories located in France: LATMOS, LPC2E, LISA, coordinated by IPAG in collaboration with Thermoelectron company was organized and a first prototype is now running at LPC2E, Orléans. We will describe the concept, its performances, and the required steps to develop an orbitrap-based high-resolution mass spectrometer that would meet the required performances for a future Titan mission. Implications of its use on an orbiter, a balloon or a lander will be discussed.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, July 1, 2020 - 7:54:45 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 12:32:13 PM


  • HAL Id : in2p3-00780299, version 1


Roland Thissen, Stefano Cornelli, Pascal Puget, Christelle Briois, Laurent Thirkell, et al.. Orbitrap Mass Analyzer : a tool for Titan complex molecular content exploration. International Planetary Probe Workshop 9, 2012, Toulouse, France. ⟨in2p3-00780299⟩



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