Sandra Brünken
Sandra Brünken

Huygens Colloquium: Sandra Brünken

Monday 13 May 2024, 12:30 pm - 1:15 pm
What Can Molecules Tell Us About the Universe?

Much of the light we collect with telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope is emitted, or altered, by molecules. Molecular processes govern the physical and chemical evolution of many regions in the Universe, and the observations of molecular emission and absorption lines constitute the major diagnostics of conditions in diverse astronomical environments. These include collapsing interstellar clouds which are the birthplaces of stars, envelopes of dying stars, or exoplanetary atmospheres.

In our group at HFML-FELIX we perform experiments on the microscopic (molecular) level providing spectroscopic and chemical reactivity data which are crucial to interpret the astronomical observations and thus to gain insight into macroscopic processes like the dynamics of star formation. I will explain how we use a cryogenic ion trap tandem mass spectrometer to “put a little bit of space in a box” and how we use the powerful FELIX infrared free-electron lasers to obtain spectroscopic fingerprints of these trapped molecules for their astronomical identification. 

Furthermore, we can use these tools to study the formation and destruction processes of molecules under controlled conditions mimicking those in astronomical environments. I will highlight a few examples where we used these methods to help the identification of molecular tracers in space, and to unravel the photochemistry of rather complex organic molecules, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and report on our progress to also apply them to gain insights into prebiotic processes potentially happening in space.

Huygens Colloquia

In the Faculty of Science a great diversity of exciting research is going on. After some years of silence – due to the Covid-lockdowns – the Huygens Colloquia are back to present research highlights to a wider audience. 

The Huygens Colloquia are a colloquium series by Faculty of Science employees for all faculty employees and students. Every month, a colleague will discuss their science and their latest results in an accessible way. Access is free and no registration is needed. Bring your own lunch, coffee, and tea will be provided.

Monday 13 May 2024, 12:30 pm - 1:15 pm
Sandra Brünken
Contact information

For more information, please get in touch with Henk de Regt.