Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous in the interstellar medium – the space in between the stars – and a large fraction of the cosmic carbon is locked-up in these molecules. PAHs play an important role in the cosmochemical cycle of organic matter, going from large molecular clouds to protostellar objects and (exo)planetary systems. Their presence in space has been derived from the characteristic infrared emission bands that PAHs emit after being excited by ultraviolet radiation. These IR bands provide us with a wealth of information on the photochemical processes that interstellar PAHs undergo. In this colloquium, I will show how experimental studies using synchrotron and free electron laser radiation – in conjunction with computational chemistry – reveal the formation and dissociation mechanisms of interstellar PAHs. I will highlight how these studies help us understand the organic inventory in space as well as in our Solar System.
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: