The formation of planetesimals, the kilometer-sized planetary precursors, is still a puzzling process. Considerable progress has been made over the past years in the physical description of the first stages of planetesimal formation, owing to extensive laboratory work. This review examines the experimental achievements and puts them into the context of the dust processes in protoplanetary disks. It has become clear that planetesimal formation starts with the growth of fractal dust aggregates, followed by compaction processes. As the dust-aggregate sizes increase, the mean collision velocity also increases, leading to the stalling of the growth and possibly to fragmentation, once the dust aggregates have reached decimeter sizes. A multitude of hypotheses for the further growth have been proposed, such as very sticky materials, secondary collision processes, enhanced growth at the snow line, or cumulative dust effects with gravitational instability. We will also critically review these ideas.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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