Hydroxyacetone (CH3COCH2OH): A combined microwave and millimeter-wave laboratory study and associated astronomical search

A. J. Apponi, J. J. Hoy, D. T. Halfen, L. M. Ziurys, M. A. Brewster

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22 Scopus citations


A combined laboratory and astronomical investigation has been conducted on the methyl sugar hydroxyacetone (CH3COCH2OH). Rotational transitions of this species in the ground torsional state (vt = 0) were recorded using both millimeter-wave direct absorption techniques and Fourier transform microwave spectroscopy. A total of 1145 lines of CH 3COCH2OH were analyzed in the frequency range 4 to 180 GHz, including transitions arising from both A- and E-symmetry species. A modified rho-axis method Hamiltonian was needed for the analysis because of the presence of perturbations resulting from the torsional motion of the methyl group in this molecule. Assignment of the E-species was particularly problematic as a consequence of significant mixing between the ground and torsionally excited levels. The complete data set was fitted using 21 spectroscopic parameters and had a global rms of 90 kHz; the barrier to internal rotation was established to be 65.3560(22) cm-1. An astronomical search was subsequently conducted for hydroxyacetone at 2 and 3 mm using the 12 m telescope of the Arizona Radio Observatory. Twenty-eight favorable transitions arising from both A- and E-species, each consisting of collapsed quartets, were searched for toward Sgr B2(N). Although credible features were detected at several frequencies of hydroxyacetone, there were a sufficient number of missing lines to rule out an interstellar detection. An upper limit to the column density of Ntot < 5 × 1012 cm-2 was derived for CH3COCH2OH in Sgr B2(N), indicating that this species is an order of magnitude less abundant than glycolaldehyde (CH2OHCHO).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1787-1795
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006


  • Astrobiology
  • Astrochemistry
  • ISM: abundances
  • ISM: individual (Sagittarius B2)
  • ISM: molecules
  • Line: identification
  • Methods: laboratory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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