"Star formation and galaxy evolution are dust-driven: cosmic nanoparticles are the key agents that drive and regulate the core physical and chemical processes. Understanding the nature of the particles that populate this ""cosmic nanoworld"" is crucial, it is a world that exists at the interface between the molecular and the macroscopic. Its constituents are small enough to exhibit characteristics reminiscent of molecules, but large enough to have properties typical of solid state materials. Because of the the “hybrid” nature of nanoparticles, an appropriate way to characterize their physical and chemical properties is still missing. The key issue is to find the right approach to attack problems too big to be solved by brute force calculation, but too small to be tackled by statistical methods.
My strategy is original in that it combines theory (hybrid multiscale modelling approaches and classical molecular dynamics) and observations in the astrophysical context, taking advantage of the fact that cosmic nanoparticles can be remotely-analysed under conditions hard or impossible to replicate in any terrestrial laboratory. The output from this project will dramatically increase our understanding of the fundamental properties of nanoparticles, helping us to reach a key goal of astrophysics. It will also provide a new set of analytic and computational tools, which will be made available to the scientific community to address ever-more-complex nanoscale systems and, in conclusion, to fully exploit the potentialities of the nanoworld.
This proposal will complement my theoretical expertise with observational top-class training and will contribute to European excellence in many scientific fields. In addition, the project will enhance European competitiveness in nanoscience and nanotechnology (through knowledge transfer), which is essential to ensure a continued growth of Europe in the world's economy."
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