The deuterium/hydrogen distribution in chondritic organic matter attests to early ionizing irradiation

Boris Laurent, Mathieu Roskosz, Laurent Remusat, François Robert, Hugues Leroux, Hervé Vezin, Christophe Depecker, Nicolas Nuns, Jean-Marc Lefebvre

Nature Communications 6,
Article number: 8567

LINK (full text)

“Primitive carbonaceous chondrites contain a large array of organic compounds dominated by insoluble organic matter (IOM). A striking feature of this IOM is the systematic enrichment in deuterium compared with the solar hydrogen reservoir. This enrichment has been taken as a sign of low-temperature ion-molecule or gas-grain reactions. However, the extent to which Solar System processes, especially ionizing radiation, can affect D/H ratios is largely unknown. Here, we report the effects of electron irradiation on the hydrogen isotopic composition of organic precursors containing different functional groups. From an initial terrestrial composition, overall D-enrichments and differential intramolecular fractionations comparable with those measured in the Orgueil meteorite were induced. Therefore, ionizing radiation can quantitatively explain the deuteration of organics in some carbonaceous chondrites. For these meteorites, the precursors of the IOM may have had the same isotopic composition as the main water reservoirs of the inner Solar System.”