Space may appear empty, but carbon molecules can exist in a very complex form. This could have implications for understanding how life arose on Earth. Image credit: Leiden University Linnartz/Tielens
A team of scientists has discovered a new possible pathway toward forming carbon structures in space using a specialised chemical exploration technique at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in California, United States.
The team’s research has now identified several avenues by which ringed molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, can form in space. The latest study is part of an ongoing effort to retrace the chemical steps leading to the formation of complex carbon-containing molecules in deep space.
PAHs – which also occur on Earth in emissions and soot from the combustion of fossil fuels – could provide clues to the formation of life’s chemistry in space as precursors to interstellar nanoparticles. They are estimated to account for about 20 percent of all carbon in our galaxy, and they have the chemical building blocks needed to form 2D and 3D carbon structures.
In the latest study, recently published in Nature Communications, researchers produced a chain of ringed, carbon-containing molecules by combining two highly ...