Volume 562, February 2014
|Number of page(s)||9|
|Section||Interstellar and circumstellar matter|
|Published online||31 January 2014|
Photochemistry of PAHs in cosmic water ice
The effect of concentration on UV-VIS spectroscopy and ionization efficiency
1 Sackler Laboratory for Astrophysics, Leiden Observatory, Leiden Universtiy, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
2 NASA Ames Research Center, Space Science & Astrobiology Division, MS 245-6, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA
Received: 16 August 2013
Accepted: 14 November 2013
Context. Observations and models show that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous in the interstellar medium. Like other molecules in dense clouds, PAHs accrete onto interstellar dust grains, where they are embedded in an ice matrix dominated by water. In the laboratory, mixed molecular ices (not containing PAHs) have been extensively studied using Fourier transform infrared absorption spectroscopy. Experiments including PAHs in ices have started, however, the concentrations used are typically much higher than the concentrations expected for interstellar ices. Optical spectroscopy offers a sensitive alternative.
Aims. We report an experimental study of the effect PAH concentration has on the electronic spectra and the vacuum UV (VUV) driven processes of PAHs in water-rich ices. The goal is to apply the outcome to cosmic ices.
Methods. Optical spectroscopic studies allow us to obtain in-situ and quasi real-time electronic solid state spectra of two prototypical PAHs (pyrene and coronene) embedded in water ice under VUV photoprocessing. The study is carried out on PAH:H2O concentrations in the range of 1:30 000 to pure PAH, covering the temperature range from 12 to 125 K.
Results. PAH concentration strongly influences the efficiency of PAH cation formation. At low concentrations, ionization efficiencies are over 60% dropping to about 15% at 1:1000. Increasing the PAH concentration reveals spectral broadening in neutral and cation PAH spectra attributed to PAH clustering inside the ice. At the PAH concentrations expected for interstellar ices, some 10 to 20% may be present as cations. The presence of PAHs in neutral and ion form will add distinctive absorption bands to cosmic ice optical spectra and this may serve as a tool to determine PAH concentrations.
Key words: astrochemistry / molecular processes / methods: laboratory: solid state / ISM: molecules
© ESO, 2014
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