Hydrogen Isocyanide, HNC: A Key Species in the Chemistry of Titan's Ionosphere?

Simon Petrie*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)


    HNC is a major product of the dissociative recombination reaction of the important ionospheric ion HCNH+, although to date this neutral has not been identified within Titan's atmosphere, nor considered as a component in ionospheric or photochemical models. We have studied a simple pseudo-steady-state model for the formation and removal of HNC, in which the loss processes considered are HNC protonation by reaction with H-bearing ions; reaction with H atoms, yielding HCN; reaction with CH3 radicals, to form CH3CN; and reaction with a population of unidentified X radicals to yield further hypothesized products. Using the ion abundances of C. N. Keller et al. (1998, Planet. Space Sci. 46, 1157-1174) and of M. Banaszkiewicz et al. (2000, Icarus 147, 386-404), we find that the most important loss processes are the reactions with CH3 and with other unidentified radicals. According to our calculations, the HN C concentration reaches a peak of 104-105 molecules per cubic centimeter at an altitude of 1000-1100 km (i.e., close to the ionospheric peak), but is very much reduced at lower altitudes. We find also that the HNC/HCN ratio in Titan's atmosphere may approach unity at the ionization peak altitude and above. We discuss prospects for the detection of HNC, or its reaction products, during the Cassini mission.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)196-203
    Number of pages8
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001


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