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Gas and Dust from the Stars to the Laboratory: Exploring the NanoCosmos (NANOCOSMOS)
Start date: 01 Aug 2014, End date: 31 Jul 2020 PROJECT  ONGOING 

Evolved stars are the factories of interstellar dust. This dust is injected into the interstellar medium and plays a key role in the evolution of astronomical objects from galaxies to the embryos of planets. However, the processes involved in dust formation and evolution are still a mystery. The increased angular resolution of new generation telescopes, will provide for the first time a detailed view of the conditions in the dust formation zone of evolved stars, as shown by our first observations with ALMA.We propose to combine astronomical observations, modelling, and top-level experiments to produce star dust analogues in the laboratory and identify the key species and steps that govern their formation. We will build two innovative setups: the Stardust chamber to simulate the atmosphere of evolved stars, and the gas evolution chamber to identify novel molecules in the dust formation zone. We will also improve existing laboratory setups and combine different techniques to achieve original studies on individual dust grains, their processing to produce complex polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the chemical evolution of grain precursors and how dust grains interact with abundant astronomical molecules. Our simulation chambers will be equipped with state-of-the-art in situ and ex situ diagnostics.Our astrophysical models, improved by the interplay between observations and laboratory studies, will provide powerful tools for the analysis of the wealth of data provided by the new generation of telescopes. In addition, new broad-band state-of-the-art High Electron Mobility Transistor receivers will be built, allowing us to perform an unprecedented astronomical survey of evolved stars and providing an invaluable legacy for any scientist in the field. The synergy between astronomers, vacuum and microwave engineers, molecular and plasma physicists, surface scientists, and theoreticians in NANOCOSMOS is the key to provide a cutting-edge view of cosmic dust.
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