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    Quantifying electron trapping and transfer to small molecules is crucial for interfacial chemistry. In an astrochemical context, we study how NH3 clusters in both crystalline and amorphous forms can capture low-energy electrons to form ammoniated electrons. Electron affinities, vertical detachment energies, and vertical attachment energies were computed via ab initio static and dynamics simulations, (DFT, DLPNO-CCSD(T);AIMD), for (NH3)n clusters (n = 4, 5, 6, 8, 14, 23, and 38). Our results indicate that the clusters could trap and stabilize the unpaired electron which is always externally localized on the clusters. Interactions of the ammoniated electron clusters with astrochemically relevant molecules indicate that electron transfer to water and methanol are feasible, forming the radical anions (H2O)−· and (CH3OH)−·. The trapping of electrons by both crystalline and amorphous NH3 ices, and subsequent transfer to small molecules, highlights ‘astro-electrochemical’ reactions, and has implications for both astrochemistry as well as terrestrial cluster science.

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  2. By means of quantum chemistry (PBE0/def2-TZVPP; DLPNO-CCSD(T)/cc-pVTZ) and small, but reliable models of Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxanes (POSS), an array of astrochemically-relevant catalysis products, related to prebiotic and origin of life chemistry, has been theoretically explored. In this work, the heterogeneous phase hydrocyanation reaction of an unsaturated CC bond (propene) catalyzed by a Ni center complexed to a silica surface is analyzed. Of the two possible regioisomers, the branched iso-propyl-cyanide is thermodynamically and kinetically preferred over the linear n -propyl-cyanide ( T = 200 K). The formation of nitriles based on a regioselective process has profound implications on prebiotic and origin of life chemistry, as well as deep connections to terrestrial surface chemistry and geochemistry. 
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    In this work, by means of quantum chemistry (Density Functional Theory (DFT), PW6B95/def2-TZVPP; DLPNO-CCSD(T)/CBS), HCN polymerization [(HCN)1 − 4] initiated and catalysed by a siloxyl radical (Si-O•) on a model silica surface is analysed. Linear HCN polymers (pHCN) are obtained by a radical initiated mechanism at a SiO• site and are characterized by a -(HC-N)- skeleton due to radical localization on the terminal N atom and radical attack on the C centre. NC heterocycles are formed by cyclization of the linear SiO-(HCN)3 − 4 and are always thermodynamically preferred over their linear counterparts, acting as thermodynamic sinks. Of particular interest to the astrochemistry community is the formation of the N-heterocycle 1,3,5-triazine that can be released into the gas phase at relatively low T (ΔG† = 23.3 kcal/mol). Full hydrogenation of SiO-(HCN•) follows two reaction channels with products: (a) SiO-CH3 + •NH2 or (b) amino-methanol + Si•, though characterized by slow kinetics. Nucleophilic addition of H2O to the electron-rich SiO-(HCN•) shows an unfavourable thermodynamics as well as a high-activation energy. The cleavage of the linear (HCN)1−4 from the SiO• site also shows a high thermodynamic energy penalty (ΔG≥82.0 kcal/mol). As a consequence, the silicate surface will be passivated by a chemically active ‘pHCN brush’ modifying the surface physico-chemical properties. The prospect of surface-catalysed HCN polymers exhibiting a high degree of chemical reactivity and proposed avenues for the formation of 1,3,5-triazine and amino-methanol opens exciting new chemical pathways to Complex Organic Matter formation in astrochemistry.

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  4. null (Ed.)
    Heterogeneous phase astrochemistry plays an important role in the synthesis of complex organic matter (COM) as found on comets and rocky body surfaces like asteroids, planetoids, moons and planets. The proposed catalytic model is based on two assumptions: (a) siliceous rocks in both crystalline or amorphous states show surface-exposed defective centers such as siloxyl (Si-O•) radicals; (b) the second phase is represented by gas phase CO molecules, an abundant C 1 building block found in space. By means of quantum chemistry; (DFT, PW6B95/def2-TZVPP); the surface of a siliceous rock in presence of CO is modeled by a simple POSS (polyhedral silsesquioxane) where a siloxyl (Si-O•) radical is present. Four CO molecules have been consecutively added to the Si-O• radical and to the nascent polymeric CO (pCO) chain. The first CO insertion shows no activation free energy with ΔG 200 K = −21.7 kcal/mol forming the SiO-CO• radical. The second and third CO insertions show Δ G 200 K ‡ ≤ 10.5 kcal/mol. Ring closure of the SiO-CO-CO• (oxalic anhydride) moiety as well as of the SiO-CO-CO-CO• system (di-cheto form of oxetane) are thermodynamically disfavored. The last CO insertion shows no free energy of activation resulting in the stable five member pCO ring, precursor to 1,4-epoxy-1,2,3-butanone. Hydrogenation reactions of the pCO have been considered on the SiO oxygen or on the carbons and oxygens of the pCO chains. The formation of the reactive aldehyde SiO-CHO on the siliceous surface is possible. In principle, the complete hydrogenation of the (CO) 1−4 series results in the formation of methanol and polyols. Furthermore, all the SiO-pCO intermediates and the lactone 1,4-epoxy-1,2,3-butanone product in its radical form can be important building blocks in further polymerization reactions and/or open ring reactions with H (aldehydes, polyols) or CN (chetonitriles), resulting in highly reactive multi-functional compounds contributing to COM synthesis. 
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