A new pulsed Laval nozzle apparatus with vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) synchrotron photoionization quadrupole mass spectrometry is constructed to study low-temperature radical-neutral chemical reactions of importance for modeling the atmosphere of Titan and the outer planets. A design for the sampling geometry of a pulsed Laval nozzle expansion has been developed that operates successfully for the determination of rate coefficients by time-resolved mass spectrometry. The new concept employs airfoil sampling of the collimated expansion with excellent sampling throughput. Time-resolved profiles of the high Mach number gas flow obtained by photoionization signals show that perturbation of the collimated expansion by the airfoil is negligible. The reaction of C2H with C2H2 is studied at 70 K as a proof-of-principle result for both low-temperature rate coefficient measurements and product identification based on the photoionization spectrum of the reaction product versus VUV photon energy. This approach can be used to provide new insights into reaction mechanisms occurring at kinetic rates close to the collision-determined limit.

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