Interstellar Hydrocarbons: Degradation Chemistry in Diffuse Clouds

By Keith Cowing
February 3, 2022
Filed under
Interstellar Hydrocarbons: Degradation Chemistry in Diffuse Clouds
The effect of varying the injection rate efficiency on the fractional abundances of the observed hydrocarbons in the diffuse gas.

Observations of diffuse clouds showed that they contain a number of simple hydrocarbons (e.g. CH, C2H, (l- and c-)C3H2, and C4H) in abundances that may be difficult to understand on the basis of conventional gas-phase chemical models.

Recent experimental results revealed that the photo-decomposition mechanism of hydrogenated amorphous carbon (HAC) and of solid hexane releases a range of hydrocarbons into the gas, containing up to 6 C-atoms for the case of HAC decomposition. These findings motivated us to introduce a new potential input to interstellar chemistry; the “top-down” or degradation scheme, as opposed to the conventional “build-up” or synthesis scheme.

In this work, we demonstrate the feasibility of the top-down approach in diffuse clouds using gas-grain chemical models. In order to examine this scheme, we derived an expression to account for the formation of hydrocarbons when HACs are photo-decomposed after their injection from grain mantles. Then, we calculated the actual formation rate of these species by knowing their injected fraction (from experimental work) and the average rate of mantle carbon injection into the ISM (from observations).

Our preliminary results are promising and reveal that the degradation scheme can be considered as an efficient mechanism for the formation of some simple hydrocarbons in diffuse clouds. However, an actual proof of the efficiency of this process and its rate constants would require comprehensive experimental determination.

Zainab Awad, Serena Viti

Comments: 14 pages, 5 Figures, 5 Tables, Accepted in MNRAS
Subjects: Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)
DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stac297
Cite as: arXiv:2202.00425 [astro-ph.GA] (or arXiv:2202.00425v1 [astro-ph.GA] for this version)
Submission history
From: Zainab Awad
[v1] Tue, 1 Feb 2022 14:25:15 UTC (248 KB)
Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻