Formaldehyde formation in interstellar space

Program Code: 

Terry Frankcombe (

Description of Work: 

Astronomers can readily observe the fingerprint of the formaldehyde molecule in interstellar space. However, the mechanism to form formaldehyde under interstellar conditions is poorly understood. It is thought to occur via hydrogen reactions on the surface of carbon monoxide ices, but confirmation of such a pathway through modelling is challenging.

This project aims to model formaldehyde formation reactions from first principles. It will use molecular fragmentation approaches to modelling gas-surface reactions, which have recently been developed by researchers at UNSW and ANU. This will allow accurate evaluation of the interaction energies at reasonable computational cost, and therefore accurate simulations of the chemical reaction dynamics.

This project has potential to develop collaborative research with international partners. Suitable candidates will have some familiarity with physical/chemical and mathematical concepts, and engage in scientific programming.