Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 October 2010
A variety of molecular species up to complex polyatomic molecules/radicals have been identified in many extraterrestrial gaseous environments, including interstellar clouds, cometary comae and planetary atmospheres. Amongst the identified molecules/radicals, a large percentage are organic in nature and encompass also prebiotic molecules. Different types of microscopic processes are believed to be involved in their formation, including surface processes, ion- and radical- molecule reactions. A thorough characterization of such a complex chemistry relies on a multi-disciplinary approach, where the observations are complemented by accurate chemical modeling. Unfortunately, a literature survey reveals that only a small percentage of the elementary reactions considered in the available models have been characterized in laboratory experiments. In this contribution, a brief overview will be given of recent experimental techniques that have allowed us to reach a better description of neutral-neutral gas-phase reactions, which might be responsible for the formation of simple prebiotic molecules.