LInking ice, gas, and dust: Laboratory AstroChemistry (LILAC)

“LInking ice, gas, and dust: Laboratory AstroChemistry” Project
Funded by CSIC as part of the i-LINK programme (Programme for the promotion of scientific international collaboration of CSIC with foreign institutions)

Proposal abstract

In this project, seven experts teams in several disciplines (laboratory, observations, models, theory) join forces to study interstellar carbonaceous materials, ices and molecules, as they are key ingredients in astrochemical and astrophysical processes, as well as precursors of life on Earth. In particular, this consortium will:

  1. Study carbonaceous dust and selected molecules in gas phase and condensed on dust surfaces, determining their optical properties in the IR to THz region, and their desorption energies and UV absorption cross sections, key properties to help their identification in space and to understand their gas-solid equilibrium.
  2. Identify the molecular precursors of the building blocks of life (nucleobases, sugars, and lipids) that could form in the interstellar medium, and detect them in space through deep astronomical observations carried out with forefront instrumentation (ALMA, JWST).
The proposed collaboration has a direct impact on more than four UN Sustainable Development Goals:
  • SD Goal #9. Foster innovation. The laboratory teams have vast experience in developing advanced instrumentation. A good part of our work is the in-house design and construction of state-of-the-art equipments, endowing our capability to bring innovation to industry (target 9.5).
  • SD Goal #13, Climate Action. The tools of laboratory spectroscopy are common for the development of new observing and diagnostic techniques of remote sensing in space and also in the Earth’s atmosphere and environmental monitoring (target 13.3).
  • This collaboration and the resulting consortium, fully comply with the SD Goal # 17. Global partnership for sustainable development, especially target 17.16 (knowledge sharing and cooperation).
  • We also note that the CSIC, MPE and RIKEN’s principal investigators are females, addressing the Goal #5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women, since, bridging the gender gap in STEM fields has been identified as strategic (target 5.5).
Moreover, Astronomy, the broader field where this collaboration is framed, has a transversal impact on several SDG’s (4-6, 7-11,1 6, 17). See the list of projects funded by the Office of Astronomy for Development of the International Astronomical Union.

Astrophysical context

Molecular clouds in the interstellar medium can contract and form young stellar objects that evolve into planetary systems. At the end of the star’s life, processed molecular material and dust are ejected back into space, and will then be incorporated in future generations of stars and planets. The detailed knowledge this cycle is fundamental to understand how stars and planets form, how organic material forms and evolves and how life could originate. To tackle this problem an interdisciplinary approach is needed. Astronomical observations with cutting-edge instrumentation, laboratory high level experiments, theoretical work and models provide the tools to unveil our astrochemical origins.