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InterCat Seminars

On the first Tuesday of each month, the InterCat Center hosts an online webinar, with an invited speaker. We encourage interested colleagues to join our webinar to learn more about the center and to meet the center members.

If you would like to be informed about upcoming webinars you should subscribe to the InterCat Seminar mailing list. In the meantime, you can browse the list of publically available webinars below.

Exploring the Cosmic Origins of Chiral Biomolecules through Laboratory Interstellar Ice Experiments

Cornelia Meinert, CNRS, France

Nucleation, Growth and Coagulation of Refractory Grains in Oxygen-Rich Circumstellar Outflows

Joseph A Nuth, NASA - Goddard Space Flight Center

Formation of extraterrestrial peptides and their derivatives in astrophysical environments

Sergiy Krasnokutskiy, Friedrich-Schiller Universität Jena

PDRs4All: JWST’s view of the Orion Bar

Els Peeters, The University of Western Ontario, Canada

Molecular Precursors of the RNA-world in the Interstellar Medium: The G+0.693-0.027 astrochemical mine

Victor M. Rivilla, Center of Astrobiology (CAB), CSIC-INTA, Madrid, Spain

Inner disk chemistry in the JWST era

Giulia Perotti, Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany

Amorphous water ice: From fundamentals to mixtures with fullerenes and hydrocarbons

Christoph Salzmann, University College London, UK

Experimental studies of X-ray and UV photon induced desorption from ices

Jean-Hugues Fillon, Sorbonne Université, France

Icy moons in our solar system: from laboratory to space missions

Stéphanie Cazaux, TU Delft Planetary Exploration, The Netherlands

Thermal and chemical desorption: two key processes for understanding gas-dust coupling in the interstellar medium

Marco Minissale, Aix-Marseilles University - PIIM laboratory, France

Ice, ice, baby: First results from JWST's IceAge Early Release Science program

Melissa McClure, Leiden University, The Netherlands

Hydrogen adsorption and reaction on carbon sp2 structures

Rocco Martinazzo, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy

IR-photoprocessing of interstellar ice analogues

Sergio Ioppolo, Queen Mary University of London, UK

Unusual Chemical Processes in the ISM

Eric Herbst, University of Virginia, Department of Chemistry, USA

Laboratory astrochemistry from ~ 4 K to ~104 K

Bhalamurugan Sivaraman, Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics Division, Physical Research Laboratory, India

From interstellar molecules to prebiotic compounds: UV photolysis of and C-atom addition to CO:NH3 ice

Ko-Ju Chuang, Leiden Observatory, Leiden University

Carbon atom addition reactions leading to complexity in interstellar ices

Thanja Lamberts, Leiden Institute of Chemistry and Leiden Observatory, Universiteit Leiden, The Netherlands

Nanoclusters and single-atom dopants on surfaces – from atomic structure to catalysis

Jeppe Vang Lauritsen, Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center, Aarhus University, Denmark 

Energy dissipation and restructuring in interstellar ice

Herma Cuppen, Radboud University

Observing the complex chemistry of young stars

Jes Kristian Jørgensen, University of Copenhagen

Spontaneous electric fields in thin films of molecular solids

Andrew Cassidy, Aarhus University


The condensation of dipolar, molecular species to form thin films, can lead to the spontaneous orientation of dipoles in the resulting solid. This phenomenon is long range and homogenous, producing polarized films of nanometer thicknesses that habour internal electric fields of up to 107 V/m. Simple molecular species have been used to demonstrate this phenomenon, including nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, methyl formate and, most recently, ammonia. The spontaneous generation of the electric field upon growth has been termed the “Spontelectric Effect” and a mean field model has been developed to explain the temperature dependent variation of the strength of the electric fields produced.


Molecular films find technical applications as semi-conductors and pharmaceutical products, and represent the largest source of solid molecular ice in the Interstellar Medium. The spontelectric effect can have impact on all of these areas. In this seminar, I will introduce the experiments that led to the identification and characterisation of the spontelectric effect, namely the measurement of polarization charge on film surfaces and Stark effects in reflection absorption infrared spectroscopy measurements. I will then show how these internal electric fields can be used to understand the physics of Wannier-Mott excitons in ammonia ices and carbon monoxide ices, and introduce a potential role for polarized carbon monoxide ices in astrochemical-reactions. 

The photochemical evolution of PAHs in space

Els Peeters, The University of Western Ontario, Canada

Nanoscale Silicate Stardust: Astrochemical Relevance and Observational Signatures

Stefan T. Bromley (Universitat de Barcelona, Spain)  

Unveiling the Nature of the carbonaceous species formed in the circumstellar environments of evolved stars by vacuum technology

José Angel Martín-Gago (Institute of Material Science of Madrid, Spain)  

Microkinetic and Thermodynamic Modeling in Heterogeneous Catalysis with Machine Learning Input

Mie Andersen (AIAS and InterCat, Aarhus University, Denmark)  

Interstellar dust grains and anaolgs from the Laboratory: Structural characteristics and their importance for Astrochemistry

Cornelia Jäger (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany)  

Measuring the chemical evolution of ices from molecular clouds to protoplanetary disks

Melissa McClure (Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, The Netherlands)

Planets form at the midplane of the protoplanetary disks surrounding newborn stars. The habitability of a planet is determined in part by the relative amounts of CHON elements at the planet's surface, and these CHONs are most likely delivered through incorporation or delivery of astronomical ices during planet formation. These ices originate in cold, dense molecular cloud cores and chemically evolve as the cores collapse to form protostars surrounded by protoplanetary disks. To understand the relative amounts and degree of complexity of the ices incorporated into comets and planets, we need observational constraints on both the chemical evolution of ices from where they form in clouds to the locations in disks where planets are being formed.


In the first part of the talk, I will describe a cutting-edge Early Release Science (ERS) program, Ice Age (P.I. McClure, over 50 team members world wide) with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to measure the chemical evolution of ices entering disks. This ERS program will provide the star and planet formation and astrochemistry communities with a non-proprietary dataset of JWST spectra, laboratory data, and chemical models within the 5 months of JWST's science operations. With this dataset, and other GTO JWST programs, we will be able to confirm the amount and complexity of ice formed non-energetically within molecular clouds and test the degree to which energetic processing increases its complexity prior to its incorporation into the disk. These programs will also be able to determine the radial distribution of ices in these disks. Time permitting, in the last part of the talk I will demonstrate a new method for identifying specific locations where ices are "left behind" in protoplanetary disks (McClure 2019; McClure, Dominik, and Kama 2020), possibly by formation of planetesimals. By combining these direct JWST studies of the icy dust input into protoplanetary disks with the direct measurement of material moving out of the disk onto the central star, we can map out where icy material is being retained in a given disk, which is a first, critical step to forming planets.

Prestellar Formation of Glycine via Dark Chemistry

Sergio Ioppolo (Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom)

An international team of laboratory astrophysicists, in part active within INTERCAT, have shown that glycine, the simplest amino acid and an important building block of life, can form under the harsh conditions that govern chemistry in space. The results, recently published in Nature Astronomy, show that glycine and very likely other amino acids are formed in dense interstellar clouds, well before these transform into new stars and planets. 

Unveiling the Nature of the carbonaceous species formed in the circumstellar environments of evolved stars by vacuum technology

Jose Angel Martin-Gago (Institute of Material Science of Madrid, Spain)  

Action gas phase spectroscopy of superhydrogenated PAHs, using the free electron laser FELIX

Frederik Doktor Skødt Simonsen (IFA, Aarhus University)  

Fragmentation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: a possible route for ethylene formation in interstellar medium

Zeyuan Tang (IFA, Aarhus University)  

The fragmentation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is important for understanding the survivability of PAHs under harsh interstellar environment and the formation of small molecules like H2, C2H2, C2H4. It is a challenge for current computational technology to explain the complex rearrangements of chemical bonds during the fragmentation in a comprehensive manner. This work combines molecular dynamics (MD) and density functional theory (DFT) to investigate the fragmentation of PAHs and propose a possible route for ethylene (C2H4) formation caused by fragmentation. MD simulations have successfully revealed the fragmentation pattern of two hydrogenated pyrenes and confirmed the structure of fragments. We have found that the edge of PAHs having three connected hydrogenated carbon atoms is the active site for ethylene formation. A more general rule for ethylene formation is introduced based on DFT calculations of other PAHs with similar edge structures.  

Experiments on vibrational energy pooling and transport in condensed phases using a mid-IR superconducting nanowire single photon detector

Alec Wodtke, (Göttingen Univ. and Max Planck Inst. Biophys. Chem., Germany)