IRAP > Actualités > The European Research Council attributed a "Synergy grant" to the NANOCOSMOS project

The European Research Council attributed a "Synergy grant" to the NANOCOSMOS project


Spanish and French researchers, including Christine Joblin, research director at the CNRS, IRAP-OMP (CNRS / Université Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier) 1 obtained a European contract within the context of the 2013 Synergy program launched by the European Reseach Council (ERC) 2. The NANOCOSMOS project "Gas and Dust from the Stars to the Laboratory: Exploring the nano-cosmos" has caught the attention of the ERC for a funding close to 15 million € for six years. The objective of NANOCOSMOS is to better understand the physico-chemical process involved in the formation of cosmic dust.

To enable this understanding, the NANOCOSMOS team will undergo experimental simulations guided by astronomical observations. This will be a truly interdisciplinary challenge which will combines skills in astronomy, astrophysics laboratory, molecular physics, surface science, plasma physics, quantum chemistry, and engineering.


Formation des molécules et des (nano)grains de poussière dans les enveloppes d'étoiles évoluées de type géantes rouges. Echelles de température et de densité dans les différentes zones correspondant à la nucléation et à la croissance des grains. © NANOCOSMOS

The team will develop a simulation chamber to produce laboratory analogues of cosmic dust in physical and chemical conditions close to those which characterize envelopes of end of life stars where dust is formed. The properties of the collected dust samples will be studied in other dedicated rooms by combining cosmic atmosphere and advanced technology in the fields of spectroscopy and materials science. At the same time, radioastronomical observations will be conducted in order to examine the molecular content and the chemical processes in the area of formation of dust around the evolved stars by leveraging the power of the ALMA 3 interferometer. Complemented by optical and infrared observations, these data will allow a full view of the gas composition and of the physical conditions that lead to the formation of the dust nuclei and to their growth by molecular accretion.

This project is expected to push forward the boundaries of our knowledge of the dust grains that are formed in evolved stars and supernova remnants, and which are the precursors of solid planets like Earth. NANOCOSMOS will have a significant impact in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, surface chemistry, both on the scientific and technological levels.


  1. The Spanish team is composed of José Cernicharo Quintanilla and José Ángel Martín Gago, both senior researchers at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicos (CSIC). The IRAP-OMP team has been studying for years the polycyclic aromatic hydrogenated molecules and the nanograins of interstellar interest in order to understand their role in the star formation regions and the evolution of the interstellar medium in our Galaxy and external galaxies. This research work combines space based (ISO, Spitzer, Herschel, Planck) observations, the use of ground-based telescopes and astrophysical laboratory activities within the Nanograins Platform in order to study the physico-chemical properties and the spectroscopy of these species within an interstellar environment. These studies are conducted within an interdisciplinary framework that involves physicists and chemists employees. More specifically for the NANOCOSMOS project, researchers from the LCPQ-IRSAMC and the LAPLACE of the University of Toulouse and CNRS are involved.
  2. This highly competitive program is designed to support multidisciplinary research projects in order to promote European scientific excellence and advances at the frontiers of knowledge.
  3. ALMA is an advanced interferometer that allows to explore the objects in the Universe, in the millimeter and submillimetre domains with a high sensitivity and an angular resolution similar to that of the Hubble Space Telescope. It is the largest existing ground-based astronomy project. ALMA is a partnership between Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. It was inaugurated in March 2013 but is used for observations since 2011.

Further details:  Le communiqué de presse de la Commission Européenne

IRAP Contact :

  • Christine Joblin, IRAP (CNRS/Université Paul Sabatier-Toulouse III) :
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