How Adsorption Affects the Gas–Ice Partitioning of Organics Erupted from Enceladus

Alexis Bouquet1,2, Christopher R. Glein1, and J. Hunter Waite Jr.1,3
Astrophysical Journal 873, 28 Link to Article [DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab0100 ]
1Space Science and Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX, 78238, USA
2Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, CNES, LAM, Marseille, France
3Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, USA

We study the effect of adsorption of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in Enceladus’ geysers, both onto the ice grains ejected in the plumes, and onto the ice walls of the cracks connecting Enceladus’ internal ocean to its surface. We use a model of adsorption/desorption based on the Polanyi–Wiegner equation and experimental values of binding energies (energy of desorption E des) of the adsorbed compounds to water ice. We find that under conditions expected at Enceladus, the process of adsorption tends to ensure that the VOCs with the highest binding energy are over-represented on the ice surface, even if their abundance is comparatively lower than those of other compounds. We find that VOCs with E des ≤ 0.5 eV are insignificantly affected by adsorption while compounds with E des ≥ 0.7 eV are readily retained on the surface and compete to occupy most of the adsorption sites. We also deduce that ice grains falling back onto the surface are likely to retain most of the molecules adsorbed on their surface. The implication is that remote observation or sampling of the ice in the cracks or of the surface around it would show a mixture of VOCs that would not be representative of the gas phase of the plumes, with the high E des VOCs dominating the adsorbed phase.

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