The origin of cosmic dust in galaxies

01 September 2020 → 31 August 2025
European funding: framework programme
Principal investigator
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Space plasma physics and solar physics
cosmic dust
Other information
Project description
Dust pervades the Universe; it is responsible for the obscuration of 50% of starlight, for the formation of molecular hydrogen, for the cooling of clouds collapsing to form stars, and for radiative feedback processes capable of driving massive galactic outflows. Due to the unknown origin of dust, cosmological simulations lack detailed dust physics, which will affect the outcome of galaxy evolution models. Current work by myself and collaborators have delivered observational evidence for the efficient condensation of dust in supernova remnants (SNRs). Up to now, grain growth is assumed to be the dominant dust source, but a viable chemical route for growing grains in the ISM has yet to be found. Current dust destruction efficiencies have been overestimated due to the neglect of inhomogeneous cloud structures. With Herschel's legacy of dust in the nearby Universe and ALMA's capabilities to detect the first infrared light of galaxies, this is an opportune time to re-evaluate the origin of dust. Building upon my expertise in dust in both SNRs and nearby galaxies, I will re-evaluate net SN dust production rates by inferring the composition and grain size of SN dust based on my own dust polarimetric data of Galactic SNRs. With my collaborators from LERMA, I will exploit a new experimental technique to simultaneously infer adsorption and diffusion energies; these laboratory measurements will allow me to assess whether grain growth can provide a viable mechanism for dust formation. My Dust and Element evolUtion modelS (DEUS) will be expanded to include a 3D inhomogeneous ISM structure, and will be exploited to model the destruction of dust by shocks in a realistic multi-phase ISM. Finally, the evolution of dust and metals will be modelled in a statistical sample of low- and high-redshift galaxies to infer the dominant dust sources. The three pillars (observations, modelling and laboratory experiments) of my ERC project are essential to solve the origin of dust problem.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA). Neither the European Union nor the authority can be held responsible for them.