Articles | Volume 10, issue 7
14 Apr 2010
 | 14 Apr 2010

Pressure dependence of the deuterium isotope effect in the photolysis of formaldehyde by ultraviolet light

E. J. K. Nilsson, V. F. Andersen, H. Skov, and M. S. Johnson

Abstract. The pressure dependence of the relative photolysis rate of HCHO vs. HCDO has been investigated for the first time, using a photochemical reactor at the University of Copenhagen. The dissociation of HCHO vs. HCDO using a UVA lamp was measured at total bath gas pressures of 50, 200, 400, 600 and 1030 mbar. The products of formaldehyde photodissociation are either H2 + CO (molecular channel) or HCO + H (radical channel), and a photolysis lamp was chosen to emit light at wavelengths that greatly favor the molecular channel. The isotope effect in the dissociation, kHCHO/kHCDO, was found to depend strongly on pressure, varying from 1.1 + 0.15/−0.1 at 50 mbar to 1.75±0.10 at 1030 mbar. The results can be corrected for radical channel contribution to yield the kinetic isotope effect for the molecular channel; i.e. the KIE in the production of molecular hydrogen. This is done and the results at 1030 mbar are discussed in relation to previous studies at ambient pressure. In the atmosphere the relative importance of the two product channels changes with altitude as a result of changes in pressure and actinic flux. The study demonstrates that the δD of photochemical hydrogen produced from formaldehyde will increase substantially as pressure decreases.

Final-revised paper