The detection of the fullerenes C60and C70in the interstellar medium (ISM) has transformed our understanding of chemical complexity in space. These discoveries also raise the possibility for the presence of even larger molecules in astrophysical environments. Here we report in situ heating of analog silicon carbide (SiC) presolar grains using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). These heating experiments are designed to simulate the temperature conditions occurring in post-AGB stellar envelopes. Our experimental findings reveal that heating the analog SiC grains to the point of decomposition initially yields hemispherical C60-sized nanostructures, with five- and six-membered rings, which transform into multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) if held isothermally >2 min. These MWCNTs are certainly larger than any of the currently observed interstellar fullerene species, both in overall size and number of C atoms. These experimental simulations suggest that such MWCNTs are likely to form in post-AGB circumstellar material, where the structures, along with the smaller fullerenes, are subsequently injected into the ISM.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry