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Deformation characteristics of solid-state benzene as a step towards understanding planetary geology

Zhang, Wenxin and Zhang, Xuan and Edwards, Bryce W. and Zhong, Lei and Gao, Huajian and Malaska, Michael J. and Hodyss, Robert and Greer, Julia R. (2022) Deformation characteristics of solid-state benzene as a step towards understanding planetary geology. Nature Communications, 13 . Art. No. 7949. ISSN 2041-1723. PMCID PMC9792550. doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35647-x.

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Small organic molecules, like ethane and benzene, are ubiquitous in the atmosphere and surface of Saturn’s largest moon Titan, forming plains, dunes, canyons, and other surface features. Understanding Titan’s dynamic geology and designing future landing missions requires sufficient knowledge of the mechanical characteristics of these solid-state organic minerals, which is currently lacking. To understand the deformation and mechanical properties of a representative solid organic material at space-relevant temperatures, we freeze liquid micro-droplets of benzene to form ~10 μm-tall single-crystalline pyramids and uniaxially compress them in situ. These micromechanical experiments reveal contact pressures decaying from ~2 to ~0.5 GPa after ~1 μm-reduction in pyramid height. The deformation occurs via a series of stochastic (~5-30 nm) displacement bursts, corresponding to densification and stiffening of the compressed material during cyclic loading to progressively higher loads. Molecular dynamics simulations reveal predominantly plastic deformation and densified region formation by the re-orientation and interplanar shear of benzene rings, providing a two-step stiffening mechanism. This work demonstrates the feasibility of in-situ cryogenic nanomechanical characterization of solid organics as a pathway to gain insights into the geophysics of planetary bodies.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Zhang, Wenxin0000-0002-6318-0622
Zhang, Xuan0000-0002-6155-6825
Gao, Huajian0000-0002-8656-846X
Malaska, Michael J.0000-0003-0064-5258
Hodyss, Robert0000-0002-6523-3660
Greer, Julia R.0000-0002-9675-1508
Additional Information:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit J.R.G. and R.H. gratefully acknowledge the financial support of JPL’s Research and Technology Development program, as well as the critical infrastructure of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute at Caltech. X.Z. acknowledges the Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdocs. H.G. acknowledges a research start-up grant (002479-00001, H.G.) from Nanyang Technological University and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). R.H. acknowledges the support of the JPL Researches on Campus program. Parts of this research were carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (80NM0018D0004, R.H.). Contributions. H.G., J.R.G., R.H., and M.J.M. contributed to the conceptualization and methodology design. B.W.E., W.Z., X.Z., and L.Z. performed the investigation. W.Z. and X.Z. analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript. H.G., J.R.G., and R.H. edited the manuscript. H.G. and J.R.G. supervised the study. W.Z. and X.Z. contributed equally to the work. Data availability. The processed experimental data and simulation videos are provided in the Supplementary Information. The raw data are protected and are not available due to data privacy restrictions. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to W.Z. The authors declare no competing interests. Nature Communications thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Group:Kavli Nanoscience Institute
Funding AgencyGrant Number
JPL Research and Technology Development FundUNSPECIFIED
Humboldt UniversityUNSPECIFIED
Nanyang Technological University002479-00001
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)UNSPECIFIED
PubMed Central ID:PMC9792550
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20230125-514337900.7
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:118931
Deposited By: Research Services Depository
Deposited On:30 Jan 2023 22:59
Last Modified:30 Jan 2023 22:59

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