INFRA-ICE: An Ultra-high Vacuum Experimental Station For Laboratory Astrochemistry

By Keith Cowing
November 20, 2020
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INFRA-ICE: An Ultra-high Vacuum Experimental Station For Laboratory Astrochemistry
Side sectional view of the Stardust machine in its standard configuration. The beam of cosmic dust analogs travels along the positive x direction.

Laboratory astrochemistry aims at simulating in the laboratory some of the chemical and physical processes that operate in different regions of the Universe.

Amongst the diverse astrochemical problems that can be addressed in the laboratory, the evolution of cosmic dust grains in the different regions of the interstellar medium (ISM) and its role in the formation of new chemical species through catalytic processes present significant interest. In particular, in the dark clouds of the ISM dust grains are coated by icy mantles and it is thought that the ice-dust interaction plays a crucial role in the development of the chemical complexity observed in space.

Here, we present a new ultra-high vacuum experimental station devoted to simulate the complex conditions of the coldest regions of the ISM. The INFRA-ICE machine can be operated as a standing alone setup or incorporated in a larger experimental station called Stardust, which is dedicated to simulate the formation of cosmic dust in evolved stars. As such, INFRA-ICE expands the capabilities of Stardust allowing the simulation of the complete journey of cosmic dust in space, from its formation in asymptotic giant branch stars (AGBs) to its processing and interaction with icy mantles in molecular clouds.

To demonstrate some of the capabilities of INFRA-ICE, we present selected results on the UV photochemistry of undecane (C11H24) at 14 K. Aliphatics are part of the carbonaceous cosmic dust and, recently, aliphatics and short n-alkanes have been detected in-situ in the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Gonzalo Santoro, Jesús. M. Sobrado, Guillermo Tajuelo-Castilla, Mario Accolla, Lidia Martínez, Jon Azpeitia, Koen Lauwaet, José Cernicharo, Gary J. Ellis, José Ángel Martín-Gago

Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Instrumentation and Detectors (physics.ins-det)
Cite as: arXiv:2011.09297 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2011.09297v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
Submission history
From: Gonzalo Santoro
[v1] Wed, 18 Nov 2020 14:07:39 UTC (24,648 KB)
Astrobiology, Astrochemistry,

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻