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An international team of scientists led by University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Chemistry Professor Ralf I. Kaiser, Alexander M. Mebel of Florida International University, and Tom J. Millar of Queen’s University Belfast (Northern Ireland) discovered a novel chemical route to form silicon dioxide (SiO2) – the key molecular building block of terrestrial sand and silicates – in interstellar space at temperatures as low as 10 Kelvin (-442 ℉).

The team announced their findings in the February 2018 issue of Nature Communications in the paper “Directed Gas Phase Formation of Silicon Dioxide and Implications to the Formation of Interstellar Silicates”coauthored by Tao Yang, Aaron M. Thomas, and Beni B. Dangi. Funding for the study was provided by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and by a grant from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (UK).