Lead: Eric Herbst
Contributing Participants: Veronica Bierbaum, Joel Bowman, Kevin Lehmann, Robert McMahon & John Yates
Many reactions in the interstellar medium occur in the gas phase and on ‘dusts.’ Because these exotic chemical processes are so unusual by terrestrial standards, many of these reactions are poorly studied, both in the laboratory and theoretically. Understanding these processes better will lead to a large step forward in our knowledge of chemical kinetics and, in addition, lead to a better understanding of the relationship between chemistry and some of the grand challenges of the universe, including the formation of complex and even biological species, the details of stellar and planetary formation, and the variations in chemistry among galaxies and different times since the Big Bang.
In Phase I the reaction dynamics team is working to elucidate both gas-phase and surface kinetics as they apply to interstellar chemistry. Gas-phase studies involve how molecules that are observed in the interstellar medium can be synthesized. This group is actively engaged in determining what the most important processes in astronomical regions at gas-phase temperatures are. Surface kinetics also play a significant role in reactions in the interstellar medium. Work on stellar-driven photochemistry on grain surfaces and ices is being done as well as free radical chemistry on surfaces and reactions in helium nano-droplets.
In Phase II the Kinetics and Reaction Dynamic team will study a significant number of chemical reactions and their mechanisms, both in the gas and on cold dust surfaces. This team will employ combined program in experimental and theoretical kinetics. The results obtained will be incorporated into large chemical simulations of various regions in our galaxy and others, and will play a role in understanding the spatial chemical images that are a main thrust of the Center in its second phase.