The ORGANIC experiment on EXPOSE-R spent 682 days outside the International Space Station, providing continuous exposure to the cosmic-, solar- and trapped-particle radiation background for fourteen samples: 11 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and three fullerenes. The thin films of the ORGANIC experiment received, during space exposure, an irradiation dose of the order of 14 000 MJ m−2
over 2900 h of unshadowed solar illumination. Extensive analyses were performed on the returned samples and the results compared to ground control measurements. Analytical studies of the returned samples included spectral measurements from the vacuum ultraviolet to the infrared range and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry. Limited spectral changes were observed in most cases pointing to the stability of PAHs and fullerenes under space exposure conditions. Furthermore, the results of these experiments confirm the known trend in the stability of PAH species according to molecular structure: compact PAHs are more stable than non-compact PAHs, which are themselves more stable than PAHs containing heteroatoms, the last category being the most prone to degradation in the space environment. We estimate a depletion rate of the order of 85 ± 5% over the 17 equivalent weeks of continuous unshadowed solar exposure in the most extreme case tetracene (smallest, non-compact PAH sample). The insignificant spectral changes (below 10%) measured for solid films of large or compact PAHs and fullerenes indicate a high stability under the range of space exposure conditions investigated on EXPOSE-R.