Alkylation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in carbonaceous chondrites

Jamie E. Elsila, Nathalie P. de Leon, Peter R. Buseck, Richard N. Zare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Using microprobe laser-desorption, laser-ionization mass spectrometry (μL2MS), we measured the distributions of alkylated and unalkylated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the free organic material of 20 carbonaceous chondrites. These meteorites represent a variety of meteorite classes and alteration histories, including CI, CK, CM, CO, CR, CV, and Tagish Lake. This work provides information on free organic compounds that is complementary to studies of the structure and composition of meteoritic macromolecular content. For the nine CM2 meteorites analyzed, we observe that higher relative abundances of alkylated PAHs correlate with more intense aqueous activity. We attribute this correlation to the differences in solubility and volatility between unalkylated and alkylated PAHs. Naphthalene and its alkylation series are more susceptible to the effects of aqueous exposure than the less-soluble PAH phenanthrene and its alkylated derivatives. These observations are consistent with the possibility of chromatographic separations on the meteorite parent bodies. We identify six CM2 meteorites with similar PAH distributions that may represent the original, unaltered organic composition of the parent body. Increased metamorphic intensity reduces the abundance of all PAHs. The thermally metamorphosed CK chondrites had no detectable levels of typical meteoritic PAHs. This observation might be explained either by a loss of PAHs caused by volatilization or by a significantly different organic content of the CK parent body.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1357
Number of pages9
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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