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E.H. Wilson, S.K. Atreya (University of Michigan)
Benzene is the most basic aromatic hydrocarbon and may serve as a precursor to more complex hydrocarbons, such as amino acids. In particular, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are believed to exist in the interstellar medium, found in carbonaceous chondrites and interplanetary dust particles, have been shown to form through impact shock of benzene. In Titan's atmosphere, aromatics formed from benzene may contribute to the organic material characteristic of the opaque haze layers prevalent in the stratosphere and above.
The Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) has detected benzene on both Jupiter and Saturn, and has yielded an upper limit for the C6H6 abundance on Titan. Although most studies regarding the formation of benzene have been related to high temperature combustion processes, a few recent theoretical and experimental studies have been conducted for lower temperatures. Using these results, we report on the possibility of benzene formation through hydrocarbon photochemistry, based on results from our one-dimensional photochemical model. Our simulations will help guide the chemical investigation of the Cassini/Huygens mission into these aromatic molecules and their aerosol products.