Vacuum ultraviolet photolysis of hydrogenated amorphous carbons
III. Diffusion of photo-produced H2 as a function of temperature
1 Centro de Astrobiología, INTA-CSIC, Carretera de Ajalvir, km 4, Torrejón de Ardoz, 28850 Madrid, Spain
2 Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, UMR 8617, CNRS/Université Paris-Sud, Université Paris-Saclay, Université Paris-Sud, 91405 Orsay, France
Received: 12 March 2016
Accepted: 10 May 2016
Context. Hydrogenated amorphous carbon (a-C:H) has been proposed as one of the carbonaceous solids detected in the interstellar medium. Energetic processing of the a-C:H particles leads to the dissociation of the C-H bonds and the formation of hydrogen molecules and small hydrocarbons. Photo-produced H2 molecules in the bulk of the dust particles can diffuse out to the gas phase and contribute to the total H2 abundance.
Aims. We have simulated this process in the laboratory with plasma-produced a-C:H and a-C:D analogs under astrophysically relevant conditions to investigate the dependence of the diffusion as a function of temperature.
Methods. Experimental simulations were performed in a high-vacuum chamber, with complementary experiments carried out in an ultra-high-vacuum chamber. Plasma-produced a-C:H and a-C:D analogs were UV-irradiated using a microwave-discharged hydrogen flow lamp. Molecules diffusing to the gas-phase were detected by a quadrupole mass spectrometer, providing a measurement of the outgoing H2 or D2 flux. By comparing the experimental measurements with the expected flux from a one-dimensional diffusion model, a diffusion coefficient D could be derived for experiments carried out at different temperatures.
Results. Dependence on the diffusion coefficient D with the temperature followed an Arrhenius-type equation. The activation energy for the diffusion process was estimated (ED(H2) = 1660 ± 110 K, ED(D2) = 2090 ± 90 K), as well as the pre-exponential factor (D0(H2) = 0.0007+0.0013-0.0004 cm2 s-1, D0(D2) = 0.0045+0.005-0.0023 cm2 s-1).
Conclusions. The strong decrease of the diffusion coefficient at low dust particle temperatures exponentially increases the diffusion times in astrophysical environments. Therefore, transient dust heating by cosmic rays needs to be invoked for the release of the photo-produced H2 molecules in cold photon-dominated regions, where destruction of the aliphatic component in hydrogenated amorphous carbons most probably takes place.
Key words: ISM: clouds / photon-dominated region (PDR) / ISM: molecules / dust, extinction / methods: laboratory: molecular / diffusion
© ESO, 2016