The mysterious spectral bands in the infrared of interstellar gas clouds in deep space originate from organic compounds. Research by the Nijmegen physicist Hans Piest confirms this. He has provided new experimental evidence for this almost 30-year-old problem in astronomy.
Each molecule has specific wavelengths at which it can either absorb or emit light. This forms the fingerprint of a substance. With this fingerprint, astronomers can demonstrate the presence of a substance in a distant star or cloud. In a wide range of lines of sight, in the almost empty interstellar space, bright infrared emission is observed, the spectrum of which has become commonly known as the “Unidentified Infrared Bands”. The most widely accepted hypothesis is that complex organic compounds cause the bands. Put more precisely it is thought to be a mixture of various polyaromatic hydrocarbons, each containing about fifty carbon atoms. Nobody had yet succeeded in measuring the spectrum of these complex molecules under conditions comparable to the cold gas situation in deep space where these spectra are found. In deep space the molecules are so far apart that they no longer collide with each other. Collisions dramatically influence the spectrum. It is difficult to create a collision-free situation in the laboratory. Furthermore, the substance is so rarefied that a spectrum can scarcely be measured. Hans Piest found a way of measuring the spectrum indirectly. For this he made use of a special laser from the Institute for Plasma Physics (FOM) in Rijnhuizen. It is a free-electron laser which can produce every desired wavelength between 5 and 250 microns. There are only a few examples of this type of laser in the world. The physicist synthesised polyaromatic hydrocarbons and bound each of these molecules to a noble gas atom. This can only be done at a temperature just above absolute zero. The bonding energy of noble gas atoms is so small that it scarcely affects the spectrum. In order to investigate which wavelengths this complex can absorb he bombarded its with laser light, using a different wavelength for each bombardment. The light from this laser is sufficient to disassociate the weakly bound noble gas molecule from the organic compound. A sensitive mass spectrometer was able to determine whether the organic substance was produced as a function of the infrared wavelength. The physicist used various noble gas atoms and repeatedly obtained the same spectrum. This strongly indicates that the noble gas did not disrupt the spectrum. The spectra measured strongly agreed with previously disputed measurements from NASA. They had directly determined the very weak absorption spectrum of various sorts of polyaromatic hydrocarbons frozen in noble gas ice. These measurements were controversial because the influence of the noble gas ice was difficult to estimate. Now the question still remains as to exactly which polyaromatics are found in space.
Michel Philippens | alphagalileo
Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials
17.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes
Black hole spin cranks-up radio volume
15.01.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
18.01.2018 | Life Sciences
18.01.2018 | Life Sciences
18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences