Ices: from molecular cloud to ocean

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Ices of various forms are found throughout our Milky Way Galaxy, from the large "molecular clouds" in which stars and planets form, in interstellar space, and in our own Solar System, on the surfaces of the Earth, the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn, on asteroids, and on comets. It is very likely that water was delivered to the Earth during its formative years by the impacts of comets and asteroids in the kind of event that exterminated the dinosaurs 60 million years ago. Furthermore, these impacting bodies carry organic material, which may have been crucial to the emergence of life on Earth: comets and asteroids bring life and death! This project will study how cosmic ice evolves, from the environments of embryonic stars, to the ices and even oceans in the Solar System. We will be using laboratory experiments, including the world's most powerful light source, the Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire, to study how the ices change as they are exposed to simulated cosmic environments such as cosmic radiation and ultraviolet light. This work might give us a glimpse as to how life began on Earth.

Planned Impact

To engage with the global research community, we will disseminate the results of our work by timely publication of data, with interpretation, in high-impact peer-reviewed journals, and by oral presentation at high profile international workshops and conferences. In view of the inter-disciplinary nature of the project we will be reaching a far wider community than is customary for astronomical work, for example, the oceanographic and chemical physics communities.

We will set up a consortium website, to which the various institutional web sites will be linked; this page will be maintained at Keele. It will be the means by which those seeking to use data acquired in this project will be directed to the VAMDC repository (see Data Management Plan). The availability of data will where appropriate be announced in peer-reviewed papers in which the data are presented.

The participating institutions have strong and active public engagement and widening participation strategies, and this project has ample scope for engaging with these schemes. The early career researchers employed on this project will be given the opportunity to attend (for example) STFC and Royal Society training programmes on public engagement and media communications, and to engage with nationally and regionally organised activities such as the Institute of Physics' "Physics in the Field" festival. This will contribute to the professional development of the early career researchers, and sits well with the RCUK "Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research".

For this purpose we request £1k per annum per PDRA/PGR researcher to enable them to attend (i) professional development activities and (ii) appropriate events such as sixth form conferences, science festivals etc. These funds will also be used to cover the costs of CRB checking for researchers who will be working with school students and vulnerable adults.

We also request £10k to design and produce suitably tailored, mass- and professionally-produced full colour leaflets to highlight the project to school students and the general public.

In due course, as the project evolves, we anticipate that there will be scope for explicit funding for outreach and public awareness, and we will approach the STFC for funding at the appropriate time.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have characterized the reactions of propyne and propene on different classes of amorphous carbon at interstellar temperatures.
We have now also begun to study further reactions on the amorphous carbon and see that it has many high energy absorption sites. Such sites are very important for understanding the role of carbon dust grains in the ISM. Indeed we have now studied the reactions of O atoms with acrolyn and acetonitrile and see significant reactivity at low temperatures. We are also just about to see if these reactions change on amorphous surfaces. We have also dramatically improved the sensitivity of the apparatus to allow us to study sub-monolayer coverages.
The "dense" amorphous carbon behaves very differently as a catalytic surface to the more fullerene-like carbon. But even on the more dense carbon we see different reactivity at low temperatures, with , for example, ozone formed from O+O2 then associating with organic molecules. Clearly there is a wealth of new chemistry to explore on amorphous surfaces at low temperatures, and that chemistry is highly relevant to models of the chemistry in interstellar clouds.
Exploitation Route Used by interstellar modellers and astronomers.

We are currently developing a higher current ion source to improve the flux of radicals
Sectors Energy,Environment,Other

 
Description As basis for public engagement activities and also as a stimulus for a further grant funding.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Research Grants
Amount £177,961 (GBP)
Funding ID RPG-2017-309 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2021
 
Description Collaboration with Jena 
Organisation Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU)
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Study reactions on prototypical dust grains made in Jena
Collaborator Contribution Make the prototypical dust grains
Impact Publications in preparation Student training
Start Year 2015
 
Description "Reactions on Cold Surfaces in the Interstellar Medium" Conference to celebrate the work of Dan Eley, Nottingham April 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact talk at conference to celebrate the life of the surface science pioneer Dan Eley
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/chemistry/events/colloquia/dan-eley-celebration.aspx
 
Description Appearance on Sky at Night 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewed on Sky at night about resesarch
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description BBC radio 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview as part of World service programme on ice in space
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Public lecture - "pint of Scinece" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact talk as part of the "pint of Science" event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Public talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Public talk at BBK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description SDSG conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited talk
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Seminar at Leeds Univeirsty 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Seminar of beams and ices to Chemistry Department
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Series of talks on Ice and Ions 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Series of talks at Open Days to publicise inter-disciplinarity in Science using our work as an example.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Talk at Imperial College 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar at Imperial College
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk at University -Industry conference on detector methodology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk about our beam techniques and detector technology to an audience interested in position sensitive detection -academics/industry
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://pimms.chem.ox.ac.uk/imagingworkshop.php
 
Description University Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar at Leeds Unviersity
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description talk on surface chemistry in the ISM and ion chemistry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk at Austrian Chemical Physics conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018