Nanoscience for studying the cosmos

DIPC Seminars

Jose Angel Martín Gago (ICMM-CSIC)
Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC).Paseo Manuel de Lardizabal, 4, Donostia
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Nanoscience for studying the cosmos **Nanoscience for studying the cosmos** **(A ERC-synergy grant for interdisciplinary science)** ** ** Surface Science deals with model systems in highly-controlled environments. Ultra High vacuum chambers, where the pressure is about 10(-10) mbars, are used to gather atomic information about interactions at surfaces by means of advanced characterization techniques, as XPS or STM. On the other hand, astrochemistry is a discipline that analyzes the chemical processes taking place at the circumstellar envelops of evolved stars, as the red-giants. The great advances experienced by radioastronomy during recent years have depicted these regions of the universe as supporting an active and rich chemistry. In these cosmic regions, simple molecules (such as H2 or CO), more complex ones (such as C60 and PAHs) and dust grains (silicates, SiC or oxides), are routinely detected. All this chemical complexity plays a major role in the evolution of galaxies, comets, the formation of planets and, ultimately, in the abiotic organic chemistry that preceded the origin of life on Earth. Which is the origin of the chemical complexity in space? Can we simulate or reproduce the conditions of these regions of the universe in ultra high vacuum machines? These are some of the questions that the NANOCOSMOS project, recently awarded with an ERC-synergy grant, will address. This alternative seminar will show some of the points related to nanoscience of this proposal. As a proof of concept, we present a new top-down route to form PAHs in large quantities in space. We show that they can be formed on the surface of the abundant graphene-covered Silicon Carbide stardust upon exposure to atomic Hydrogen under pressure and temperature conditions analogous to those of the circumstellar medium. This work put forward the unique possibility of using ultra high vacuum based techniques and surface science protocols for studying chemical processes taking place in the dusty regions of the Universe. We expect NANOCOSMOS to impact on our current vision of the chemistry in the universe, and therefore, on our origins. P. Merino et al. Nature Comm. 2014