Laboratory simulations of interstellar solid-state chemistry:

Solid-state processes taking place in the icy mantles that shroud interstellar dust grains play a fundamental role in building the chemical complexity of the interstellar medium. Such processes are heavily influenced by the physical conditions of the environment, which varies throughout the different stages of star formation. In order to understand the chemical network of interstellar space, it is thus warranted to investigate in detail solid-state reaction pathways. My research is focused on doing so by simulating interstellar ice chemistry in the laboratory by means of ultra-high vacuum setups coupled with cryogenic techniques, which allow us to reproduce the extremely low pressures and temperatures of these environments.

Research highlight: Methanol (CH3OH) is the simplest complex organic molecule and is one of the mains constituents of interstellar ices. It is also an important precursor to forming prebiotic molecules in space. In this study, we provide the first experimental confirmation of a newly proposed dominating last step to forming CH3OH in interstellar grains. To do so we utilise the kinetic isotope effect as a tool to constrain contributions from different mechanisms to forming CH3OH.

Constraining the astrochemical inventory with submillimeter observations:

Observations in submillimeter wavelengths can provide powerful information on the chemical content and physical properties of astronomical environments. In particular, protostellar sources are known for harboring a lavish gaseous chemical inventory originated from a combination of gas-phase processes and ice molecules that thermally sublimate. Their abundances are therefore diagnostic of both their formation and destruction mechanisms.

© D. Kordan (ESO)

Research highlight: SO2 and OCS are two particularly interesting species since they are major sulfur carriers in the gas phase and the only two sulfurated molecules detected in ices to date. They are thus the ideal candidates for a comparative study between ice and gas. In this work (submitted), we investigate SO2 and OCS abundances towards a statiscally-significant sample of 26 massive protostars and compare them to ice counterparts. We find that SO2 and OCS are likely originated in different ice environments at different evolutionary timescales, but that they might share a common chemical history.