EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 400, Number 2, March III 2003
Page(s) 585 - 593
Section Formation, structure and evolution of stars
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20021902

A&A 400, 585-593 (2003)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20021902

Moment equations for chemical reactions on interstellar dust grains

A. Lipshtat and O. Biham

Racah Institute of Physics, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
(Received 21 November 2002 / Accepted 16 December 2002 )

While most chemical reactions in the interstellar medium take place in the gas phase, those occurring on the surfaces of dust grains play an essential role. Such surface reactions include the catalytic production of molecular hydrogen as well as more complex reaction networks producing ice mantles and various organic molecules. Chemical models based on rate equations including both gas phase and grain surface reactions have been used in order to simulate the formation of chemical complexity in interstellar clouds. For reactions in the gas phase and on large grains, rate equations, which are highly efficient to simulate, are an ideal tool. However, for small grains under low flux, the typical number of atoms or molecules of certain reactive species on a grain may go down to order one or less. In this case the discrete nature of the populations of reactive species as well as the fluctuations become dominant, thus the mean-field approximation on which the rate equations are based does not apply. Recently, a master equation approach that provides a good description of chemical reactions on interstellar dust grains was proposed. Here we present a related approach based on moment equations that can be obtained from the master equation. These equations describe the time evolution of the moments of the distribution of the population of the various chemical species on the grain. An advantage of this approach is the fact that the production rates of molecular species are expressed directly in terms of these moments. Here we use the moment equations to calculate the rate of molecular hydrogen formation on small grains. It is shown that the moment equation approach is efficient in this case in which only a single reactive species is involved. The set of equations for the case of two species is presented and the difficulties in implementing this approach for complex reaction networks involving multiple species are discussed.

Key words: ISM: molecules -- molecular processes

Offprint request: O. Biham, biham@phys.huji.ac.il

© ESO 2003