On Titan, acrylonitrile would crystallise into its molecular ice instead of an azotosome, quantum mechanical calculations have shown
Photographer: NASA/Yen Strandqvist/ChalmersUsing advanced quantum mechanical calculations, the researchers compared the energy of the proposed azotosome membrane embedded in methane with that of the molecular crystal form of acrylonitrile – its molecular ice. They discovered that each building block added to the azotosome increased its energy significantly, making its formation progressively less likely thermodynamically. They conclude therefore that while azotosomes could survive on Titan, they would not self-assemble under such conditions. Instead, acrylonitrile would crystallise into its molecular ice.