Controlled laboratory astrochemistry
Gas-phase and grain-surface chemistry in diffuse and dense interstellar clouds drive the formation of hundreds of increasingly complex carbon-bearing molecules from small, single-carbon species. In this project, we investigate how molecular complexity in interstellar space emerges from the reaction of small atomic and molecular fragments. The combined use of electric fields, magnetic fields and laser light enables the precise control of the velocity and quantum state of the reacting species to understand the fundamental reaction dynamics of astrochemical processes. In particular, the spatial separation of molecules in different rotational states by electrostatic deflection allows us to probe the effect of adding a single quantum of rotational excitation on the reaction kinetics and product branching ratios.