, Volume 104, Issue 1-4, pp 433-468

Huygens Probe Aerosol Collector Pyrolyser Experiment

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Abstract

ACP's main objective is the chemical analysis of the aerosols in Titan's atmosphere. For this purpose, it will sample the aerosols during descent and prepare the collected matter (by evaporation, pyrolysis and gas products transfer) for analysis by the Huygens Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GCMS). A sampling system is required for sampling the aerosols in the 135'32 km and 22'17 km altitude regions of Titan's atmosphere. A pump unit is used to force the gas flow through a filter. In its sampling position, the filter front face extends a few mm beyond the inlet tube. The oven is a pyrolysis furnace where a heating element can heat the filter and hence the sampled aerosols to 250 °C or 600 °C. The oven contains the filter, which has a thimble-like shape (height 28 mm). For transferring effluent gas and pyrolysis products to GCMS, the carrier gas is a labeled nitrogen 15N2, to avoid unwanted secondary reactions with Titan's atmospheric nitrogen.

Aeraulic tests under cold temperature conditions were conducted by using a cold gas test system developed by ONERA. The objective of the test was to demonstrate the functional ability of the instrument during the descent of the probe and to understand its thermal behavior, that is to test the performance of all its components, pump unit and mechanisms.

In order to validate ACP's scientific performance, pyrolysis tests were conducted at LISA on solid phase material synthesized from experimental simulation. The chromatogram obtained by GCMS analysis shows many organic compounds. Some GC peaks appear clearly from the total mass spectra, with specific ions well identified thanks to the very high sensitivity of the mass spectrometer. The program selected for calibrating the flight model is directly linked to the GCMS calibration plan. In order not to pollute the two flight models with products of solid samples such as tholins, we excluded any direct pyrolysis tests through the ACP oven during the first phase of the calibration. Post probe descent simulation of flight results are planned, using the much representative GCMS and ACP spare models.

This revised version was published online in August 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.