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Physics

PHYSICS

One research area focuses on formation and depletion mechanisms of organic molecules in extraterrestrial environments, where the build-up of complex molecules can proceed on grain surfaces or through gas phase reactions. The latter often involves ion-neutral reactions with subsequent dissociative recombination. Dissociative recombination is studied at the CRYRING heavy ion storage ring at the Manne Siegbahn Laboratory in Stockholm. The obtained results can be used for improving chemical models of molecular clouds and planetary atmospheres. With the recent discovery of anions in dense molecular clouds, environments may exist where they could cause mutual neutralization. The efficiency of these reactions will be studied at the Double Electrostatic Ion Ring Experiment (DESIREE), currently under construction at Stockholm University. An interesting astrobiological question is to what extent biomolecules and their precursors can evolve in the interstellar medium.

Another line of study is of the survival of biomolecules during atmospheric entry. Organic molecules have been found in interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), which frequently impact the Earth. It is of astrobiological interest to investigate how life-related molecules interact with the atmosphere, and if sublimable phases, e.g. water, can help protect them during entry. These experiments are carried out using an electrospray ion source.

 

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