Planets and their moons are constantly subjected to irradiation from both their respective planetary magnetospheres and the solar wind. Energetic particles (electrons, protons and ions) in such radiation may induce complex chemistry within the icy mantles of such bodies, producing many organic compounds. Such processes can be simulated in laboratory experiments. In this report we present recent results from experiments exploring both molecular synthesis and the morphology of such ices.
The morphology of any ice may be characterised by IR and Vacuum Ultra-Violet (VUV) spectroscopy. The latter is particularly useful for studying ices in which infrared inactive molecules like oxygen (O2) are common. We have shown that oxygen forms dimers in typical planetary ices and that, in contrast to previous analysis, many of the chemical reactions within the ice involve such dimer (and larger cluster) chemistry. We also present the results of a series of experiments that explore electron, proton and ion irradiation on Solar System relevant ices such as carbon dioxide (CO2) at different temperatures. Infrared spectra recorded before and after irradiation are used to identify and quantify molecules formed in such irradiation, e. g. ozone. These experiments show that the morphology of the ice plays a critical role in the chemistry.