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The European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU)

Interstellar dust grains coating: water formation on forsterite nanoparticles

Awarded Resources (in node hours)
System Partition
4 March 2024 - 3 March 2025
Allocation Period

The prebiotic origin of the chemical complexity found on Earth nowadays is a matter of debate in the astrochemical community. In the interstellar medium (ISM), huge molecular clouds mainly composed by atomic species and dust grains, provide the factory for ignition of chemical processes.

However, the extreme conditions of pressure (10^1-10^6 particles/cm^{-3}) and temperature (10-100 K) hinder almost all chemical reactions, thus raising a fundamental question: which is the spark that made possible the elemental reactions that from atomic species led to simple molecules until the most complex living and thinking systems?

Dust grains, nanometric particles mainly made by rocky materials, work as concentrators of atomic species that from the gas phase get adsorbed at the grain surfaces and, through diffusion, the formation of the simplest molecules occurs, such as molecular hydrogen, the most abundant molecule in the Universe.

Due to the extreme physico-chemical conditions of the molecular clouds, studying such phenomena through laboratory experiments is extremely challenging, and, for this reason, computational chemistry became in the last years a fundamental pillar of the astrochemistry field.

The aim of this project is to study the structure and chemical properties of dust grains, as well as the most interesting reactions occurring at their interface. The broader scope of the research is to shed light on the comprehension of our astrochemical heritage, starting from the formation of the simplest molecules by their atomic components.