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Interstellardust produced in the labs of the „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University using unique method worldwide

on 18 January 2019

Every week at the Physics Faculty of the „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași a few milligrams of artificial interstellar dust are produced. The result comes from the project “Synthesis of Interstellar Dust Analogs by Plasma Methods (2017-2018)”, financed by the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) through The  Research, Development and Innovation STAR Programme - Space Technology and Advanced Research.

The research team produced a carbon dust in the lab, which, upon analysis, seems almost identical with the organic matter found at tens of thousands of light years away, in space. The result brings two firsts worldwide — the method for producing the dust, as well as the fact that the dust particles are fluffy and disorganised, as they are expected to be in space.

The coordinator of the study, Dr. Ionuț Topala, Lecturer, says that the dust produced in the lab, an analogue of the one in space, enables the scientific community to understand how matter evolves in space and what happens to it when it is radiated or when it comes in the path of a comet. Such studies can only happen in the lab, with the help of artificial products.

Even though carbon-based products similar to interstellar dust have been previously produced, the few labs that had this achievement had used very high temperatures, or very low pressures. Additionally, the substance they created was very organised, when observed with a microscope.

For producing and investigating the dust produced in Iasi, all the installations were designed and build at the „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University, using commercial elements, produced in Romania.

Looking ahead, the product of the „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University labs could be used to plan space missions. Most Solar System expeditions from recent years had among their objectives the study of dust — interplanetary or from comets.

The result of the team from the „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University was published in the December number of one of the most renowned astrophysical magazines in the world — „Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society”, published by Oxford University Press.

The research team of the study was: Ionuț Topală, Silvia-Alina Chiper, Valentin Pohoaţă (faculty staff at the Physics Faculty), Ilarion Mihăilă (CERNESIM researcher), Delia Ciubotaru, Bianca Cristiana Hodoroabă (Master Students), Ioana Cristina Gerber (PhD student) and Toma Mihai (technician).

More details can be found at the following webpage: http://www.uaic.en/prafdestele/ as well as in the article published by Oxford University Press:

Hodoroaba, B., Gerber, I. C., Ciubotaru, D., Mihaila, I., Dobromir, M., Pohoata, V., &Topala, I. - Carbon fluffy aggregates produced by helium – hydrocarbon high pressure plasmas as analogs to interstellar dust, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 481, Number 2, Pag. 2841–2850, 1 December 2018

A video about this result was produced by the „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University  and can be accessed here:

Source and credits: „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University

2019 01 A praf interstelar 2019 01 B praf interestelar zoom

2019 01 C echipa de cercetare 2019 01  D laborator