Formation and dissociation of hydrocarbons in interstellar environments and planetary atmospheres
Dr. Jordy Bouwman
Assistant Professor of Cosmochemistry
University of Colorado, Boulder
Hydrocarbons of all sorts of sizes and shapes are found throughout the various stages of star and planet formation. Using radio astronomical observations, for example, a variety of cyclic hydrocarbons and even polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been detected in the very cold (10 K) and low density Taurus molecular cloud. The same classes of organic molecules are also found in planetary atmospheres, such as that of Saturn’s largest moon Titan. These detections challenge our understanding of the chemical formation mechanisms of these species under extreme conditions. On the other hand, when aromatic hydrocarbons are exposed to strong radiation fields in the interstellar medium or in planetary atmospheres, their molecular structure can be altered and they may eventually photodissociate. In this seminar, I will show that experimental studies using synchrotron and free electron laser radiation – in conjunction with quantum chemical computations – allow us to reveal the formation and dissociation mechanisms of interstellar and planetary hydrocarbons at a molecular level of detail.
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