2009 Annual Science Report
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Reporting | JUL 2008 – AUG 2009
The Formation of Graphite Whiskers in the Primitive Solar Nebula
Graphite whiskers have been discovered associated with high temperature phases in meteorites1 such as Calcium Aluminum Inclusions and chondrules and it has been suggested that expulsion of such material from protostellar nebulae could significantly affect the optical properties of the average interstellar grain population. We have experimentally studied the potential for Fischer-Tropsch and Haber-Bosch type reactions to produce organic materials in protostellar systems from the abundant H2, CO and N2 reacting on the surfaces of available silicate grains2. When graphite grains are repeatedly exposed to H2, CO and N2 at 875K abundant graphite whiskers are observed to form on or from the surface of the graphite grains. In a dense, turbulent nebula such extended whiskers are very likely to be broken off and the fragments could be ejected either in polar jets or by photon pressure.
PROJECT MEMBERS:Joseph Nuth
RELATED OBJECTIVES:Objective 3.1
Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts