Exploring molecular complexity with ALMA (EMoCA): Simulations of branched carbon-chain chemistry in Sgr B2(N)
1 Departments of Chemistry and Astronomy, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA
2 Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
3 I. Physikalisches Institut, Universität zu Köln, Zülpicher Str. 77, 50937 Köln, Germany
Received: 14 December 2016
Accepted: 16 January 2017
Context. Using millimeter wavelength data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the EMoCA spectral line survey recently revealed the presence of both the straight-chain (normal) and branched (iso) forms of propyl cyanide (C3H7CN) toward the Galactic Center star-forming source Sgr B2(N2). This was the first interstellar detection of a branched aliphatic molecule.
Aims. Through computational methods, we seek to explain the observed i:n ratio for propyl cyanide, and to predict the abundances of the four different forms of the homologous nitrile, butyl cyanide (C4H9CN). We also investigate whether other molecules will show a similar degree of branching, by modeling the chemistry of alkanes up to pentane (C5H12).
Methods. We use the coupled three-phase chemical kinetics model, MAGICKAL, to simulate the chemistry of the hot-core source Sgr B2(N2), using an updated chemical network that includes grain-surface/ice-mantle formation routes for branched nitriles and alkanes. The network explicitly considers radical species with an unpaired electron on either the primary or secondary carbon in a chain. We also include mechanisms for the addition of the cyanide radical, CN, to hydrocarbons with multiple bonds between carbon atoms, using activation energy barriers from the literature. We use the EMoCA survey data to search for the straight-chain form of butyl cyanide toward Sgr B2(N2).
Results. The observed i:n ratio for propyl cyanide is reproduced by the models, with intermediate to fast warm-up timescales providing the most accurate result. Butyl cyanide is predicted to show similar abundances to propyl cyanide, and to exhibit strong branching, with the sec form clearly dominant over all others. Normal and iso-butyl cyanide are expected to have similar abundances to each other, while the tert form is significantly less abundant. The addition of CN to acetylene and ethene is found to be important to the production of vinyl, ethyl, propyl, and butyl cyanide. The alkanes also show significant branching. We report a non-detection of n-C4H9CN toward Sgr B2(N2), with an abundance at least 1.7 times lower than that of n-C3H7CN. This value is within the range predicted by the chemical models.
Conclusions. The models indicate that the degree of branching rises with increasing molecular size. The efficiency of CN addition to unsaturated hydrocarbons boosts the abundances of nitriles in the model, and enhances the ratio of straight-to-branched molecule production. Other types of molecule may be less abundant, but show an even greater degree of branching. The predicted abundance of, in particular, s-C4H9CN, which at its peak is comparable to that of propyl cyanide, makes it a good candidate for future detection toward Sgr B2(N2).
Key words: astrochemistry / ISM: molecules / ISM: individual objects: Sagittarius B2(N2) / molecular processes / methods: numerical
© ESO, 2017