The goal of this contribution is to illustrate how spatially resolved spectroscopic observations of the infrared emission of UV irradiated regions, from star forming regions to the diffuse ISM, can be used to rationalize the chemical evolution of carbonaceous macromolecules in space, with the help of astrophysical models. For instance, observations with the Spitzer space telescope lead to the idea that fullerenes (including C60 can form top-down from Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in the interstellar medium. The possibility that this process can occur in space was tested using a photochemical model which includes the key molecular parameters derived from experimental and theoretical studies. This approach allows to test the likelihood that the proposed path is realistic, but, more importantly, it allows to isolate the key physical processes and parameters that are required to capture correctly the evolution of carbonaceous molecules in space. In this specific case, we found that relaxation through thermally excited electronic states (a physical mechanism that is largely unexplored, except by few a teams) is one of the keys to model the photochemistry of the considered species. Subsequent quantum chemical studies stimulated by the (limited) astrophysical model showed that a detailed mapping of the energetics of isomerization and de-hydrogenation is necessary to understand the competition between these processes in space.
Such approaches, involving experimentalists and theoreticians, are particularly promising in the context of the upcoming JWST mission, which will provide access to the signatures of carbonaceous species in emission and in absorption at an angular resolution that will enable to reach new chemical frontiers in star and even in planet forming regions.