A new study in Physical Review Letters reveals that the series of infrared (IR) band peaks, collectively known as the cosmic unidentified IR emission, arises as a consequence of the wavelike behavior of delocalized electrons in hydrocarbon compounds. An essential aspect of these compounds is that they undergo structural transformations triggered by starlight absorption. These transformations described as defects affect the wave motion of delocalized electrons, that is, electrons that move freely across multiple carbon-carbon bonds in aromatic type hydrocarbons. The study suggests that the spectral characteristics of the cosmic emission are explained integrally by describing the motion of delocalized electrons around structural defects. This outcome offers a physical framework able to account for a full range of observational spectral details in this longstanding scientific issue.
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