Proton Transfer at Subkelvin Temperatures


We demonstrate a novel method to ionize molecules or molecular clusters by proton transfer at temperatures below 1 K. The method yields nascent ions and largely eliminates secondary reactions, even for notoriously ‘delicate’ molecules. Protonation is achieved inside liquid helium nanodroplets (HNDs) and begins with the formation of (H2)mH+ ions as the proton donors. In a separate and subsequent step the HNDs are doped with a proton acceptor molecule, X. Proton transfer occurs between X and the cold proton donor ions inside a helium droplet, an approach that avoids the large excess energy that is released if HNDs are first doped and then ionized. Mass spectra, recorded after stripping excess helium and hydrogen in a collision cell, show that this method offers a new way to determine proton affinities of molecules and clusters by proton-transfer bracketing, to investigate astrochemically relevant ion–molecule reactions at sub-kelvin temperatures, and to prepare XH+ ions that are suitable for messenger-tagging action spectroscopy.



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Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics


Royal Society of Chemistry

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