Acrylonitrile emulsions and the smoothness of Titan’s lakes

The small organic chemical acrylonitrile is abundant on Saturn’s moon Titan:




This molecule could be abundant in Saturn’s lakes:

“Finally, they calculated that within every cubic centimeter (cm³) of its volume, Ligeia Mare could form as many as 10,000,000 azotosomes. That roughly ten times the amount of bacteria that exists in the waters along Earth’s coastal regions.”

Titan’s lakes are known to be extremely smooth:

Surface of Ligeia Mare, Titan, from Cassini altimeter and radiometer analysis

I wonder if this smoothness could be partially explained by a large number of “azotosomes” in the liquid methane, making it more viscous.


An azotosome:


” … they had to find a molecule that was known to be abundant on Titan and could self-assemble into an azotosome.

Eventually they found a promising candidate in acrylonitrile, a small organic nitrogen compound that on Earth is colorless, poisonous and used in the manufacture of acrylic fibers. 

But on Titan, “it makes a nice, stable membrane structure that has elasticity to it,” said Lunine. “It hit the sweet spot.”

Computer models suggest that in order for acrylonitrile to organize itself into an azotosome in cold methane lakes, it has to be in a high enough concentration that its molecules collide with one another.”

Quote and illustration here:

How life could develop in the methane lakes of Saturn’s moon Titan



4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Julian O'Dea on December 20, 2017 at 8:17 am

    Azotosomes would be about 10 microns in diameter?

    (implies solutions are more viscous)

    (dilute solution viscometry especially with polymers)

    (polymer size cf. 10 microns for azotosomes)


  2. Posted by Julian O'Dea on December 20, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Title in could be Possible Role For Organics such as “Azotosomes” in the Viscosity of Titan’s Hydrocarbon Lakes.

    Need to confirm the flatness of the lakes …


  3. Posted by Julian O'Dea on December 28, 2017 at 10:49 am

  4. Posted by Julian O'Dea on January 2, 2018 at 3:48 am

    An elementary physics textbook says ripples in water are mostly smoothed by surface tension. Do other liquids such as liquid methane have surface effects too?


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