Competitive dehydrogenation and backbone fragmentation of superhydrogenated PAHs: A laboratory study

Mark H. Stockett, Lorenzo Avaldi, Paola Bolognesi, James N. Bull, Laura Carlini, Eduardo Carrascosa, Jacopo Chiarinelli, Robert Richter, Henning Zettergren

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Superhydrogenated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been suggested to catalyze the formation of H2 in certain regions of space, but it remains unclear under which circumstances this mechanism is viable given the reduced carbon backbone stability of superhydrogenated PAHs. We report a laboratory study on the stability of the smallest pericondensed PAH, pyrene (C16H10+N , with N = 4, 6, and 16 additional H atoms), against photodestruction by single vacuum ultraviolet photons using the photoelectron-photoion coincidence technique. For N = 4, we observe a protective effect of hydrogenation against the loss of native hydrogens, in the form of an increase in the appearance energies of the and C16H8+ daughter ions compared to those reported for pristine pyrene (C16H10). No such effect is seen for N = 6 or 16, where the weakening effect of replacing aromatic bonds with aliphatic ones outweighs the buffering effect of the additional hydrogen atoms. The onset of fragmentation occurs at similar internal energies for N = 4 and 6, but is significantly lower for N = 16. In all three cases, H-loss and C m H n -loss (m ≥ 1, carbon backbone fragmentation) channels open at approximately the same energy. The branching fractions of the primary channels favor H-loss for N = 4, C m H n -loss for N = 16, and are roughly equal for the intermediate N = 6. We conclude that superhydrogenated pyrene is probably too small to support catalytic H2-formation, while trends in the current and previously reported data suggest that larger PAHs may serve as catalysts up to a certain level of hydrogenation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number46
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2021

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