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Research center to free chemistry from Earth's bonds
Date:10/8/2008

A new research center combining the tools of chemistry and astronomy will use the unique laboratory of interstellar space to free the study of basic chemistry from the restrictive bonds of Earth.

The Center for Chemistry of the Universe will allow scientists to explore new types of chemical reactions that occur under the extreme conditions of space. The center will combine laboratory experiments, theoretical studies, and radio-telescope observations to dramatically expand our understanding of the processes that build molecules that may "seed" young planets with the building blocks of life.

The Center forges a unique research collaboration among leading scientists in the field of astrochemistry from the University of Arizona, The Ohio State University, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and a group of chemists and physicists at the University of Virginia engaged in research to understand the fundamentals of chemical reactions.

"We hope to answer some very basic questions, such as just how did the molecules that ultimately became us get their start?" said Brooks Pate, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Virginia (UVa) and leader of the team that will form the new center. The team received an initial grant of $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to form the center during the next two years. If the NSF then fully approves the initiative, the foundation will provide funding of $4 million per year for up to ten years.

The new center will bring together laboratory researchers, theoreticians, and observers using radio telescopes of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the Arizona Radio Observatory (ARO). The group of chemists participating in the center have discovered more than half of the new interstellar molecules identified worldwide in the past 18 months.

The NRAO operate
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Contact: Dave Finley
dfinley@nrao.edu
575-835-7302
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Source:Eurekalert

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