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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) represent key molecular building blocks leading to carbonaceous nanoparticles identified in combustion systems and extraterrestrial environments. However, the understanding of their formation and growth in these high temperature environments has remained elusive. We present a mechanism through laboratory experiments and computations revealing how the prototype PAH—naphthalene—can be efficiently formed via a rapid 1-indenyl radical—methyl radical reaction. This versatile route converts five- to six-membered rings and provides a detailed view of high temperature mass growth processes that can eventually lead to graphene-type PAHs and two-dimensional nanostructures providing a radical new view about the transformations of carbon in our universe.


Originally published in Nature Communications.

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