Direct production of molecular oxygen from carbon dioxide by the collisions with helium ion

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Direct production of molecular oxygen from carbon dioxide by the collisions with helium ion

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Ion-molecule reaction plays crucial roles in interstellar space and atmosphere and drives the matter evolutions therein. Solar winds contain lots of helium ions (He+), thus the He+ reactions with atmospheric molecules deserve attentions. Meanwhile, a staggering 95% of the Martian atmosphere is carbon dioxide (CO2), and the Venusian boasts a remarkable 97%. Therefore, the He+ collisional reactions with CO2 contribute to the developments of intricate celestial milieus. Another fundamental issue is the origin of atmospheric O2. The components of the ancient Earth’s atmosphere (4 billion years ago) are believed as the same as the current Martian, namely, very few O2 molecules, besides the large quantity of CO2, do exist in the atmospheres. The prebiotic production of those O2 molecules attracts considerable interests.

 A cascade process,

CO2 + hν → CO + O  (1a)

O + O + M → O2 + M   (1b)

has been recommend as the primordial source of the prebiotic origin of atmospheric O2 in textbooks1,2. Another photochemistry channel was proposed recently, 

CO2 + hν (extreme ultraviolet) → C + O2  (2)

by Lu et al3. Moreover, the direct production of O2 was also found in dissociative electron attachment to CO2,

CO2 + e¯ → C¯ + O2       (3)

by Wang et al4. More recently, we demonstrate that the ion-molecule reaction,

He+ + CO2 → C+ + He + O2   (4)

is also an important channel5. All of these channels are summarized in Figure 1, providing a multichannel picture about the prebiotic origins of O2 in the CO2-rich atmospheres. It is noted that the identifications of the O2 production from above channels (equations 2-4) benefit much from ion velocity map imaging technique.

Figure 1. Prebiotic origins of atmospheric O2.


  1. Schopf, J. W. Precambrian Paleobiology: Problems and Perspectives. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 3, 213-249 (1975).
  2. Kasting, J. F., Liu, S. & Donahue, T. Oxygen levels in the prebiological atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res. 84, 3097-3107 (1979).
  3. Lu, Z., Chang, Y.-C., Yin, Q.-Z., Ng, C. Y. & Jackson, W. M. Evidence for direct molecular oxygen production in CO2 photodissociation. Science 346, 61-64 (2014).
  4. Wang, X.-D., Gao, X.-F., Xuan, C.-J. & Tian, S. X. Dissociative electron attachment to CO2 produces molecular oxygen. Nat. Chem. 8, 258-263 (2016).
  5. Zhi, Y.; Guo, Q.; Xie, J.; Hu, J. & Tian, S. X. Direct production of molecular oxygen from carbon dioxide and helium ion collisions. Commum. Chem. 6, 267 (2023).

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