The attoworld reseach group “field resolved nano spectroscopy”, led by Prof. Matthias Kling, in collaboration with the American University Sharjah, reports a new route to the formation of trihydrogen ions (H3+). The route involves a bimolecular reaction between water molecules adsorbed on nanoparticle surfaces, a situation that closely mimics irradiated ice and ice/dust particles in outer space. All routes identified so far involved organic molecules, which cannot exist under high-energy irradiation in space. The unprecedented generation of H3+ was enabled by “engineering” a suitable reaction environment comprising water-covered silica nanoparticles exposed to intense, femtosecond laser pulses.

Trihydrogen ions are arguably the most important triatomic species from the perspective of generating living matter in the universe. Such ions have hitherto not been possible to generate using conventional techniques of chemical synthesis. Their significance stems from their involvement in the production of many organic compounds in the universe and H3+ ions are regarded as an important precursor for the origin of life. The studies explore a new mechanism for the production of H3+ that mimics the conditions in outer space and, thus, provides new insights into the process that governs its creation and, consequently, the beginning of life in the universe. Furthermore, the new approach has the potential to be extended to the production of other new molecules that can have significant biological and environmental applications in terrestrial and non-terrestrial situations.

Picture description:

Physicists of the research group “field resolved nano spectroscopy”, led by Prof. Matthias Kling (left, together with Philipp Rosenberger) of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, found a new route to the formation of trihydrogen ions (H3+) triggered by strong laserpulses.

Picture: Thorsten Naeser