Nitrogen isotope fractionation in protoplanetary disks
European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Straße 2,
2 Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Giessenbachstraße 1, 85748 Garching, Germany
3 Observatoire de Paris, LERMA, UMR 8112 du CNRS, 92195 Meudon, France
4 Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
Accepted: 8 February 2018
Aims. The two stable isotopes of nitrogen, 14N and 15N, exhibit a range of abundance ratios both inside and outside the solar system. The elemental ratio in the solar neighborhood is 440. Recent ALMA observations showed HCN/HC15N ratios from 83 to 156 in six T Tauri and Herbig disks and a CN/C15N ratio of 323 ± 30 in one T Tauri star. We aim to determine the dominant mechanism responsible for these enhancements of 15N: low-temperature exchange reactions or isotope-selective photodissociation of N2.
Methods. Using the thermochemical code DALI, we model the nitrogen isotope chemistry in circumstellar disks with a 2D axisymmetric geometry. Our chemical network is the first to include both fractionation mechanisms for nitrogen. The model produces abundance profiles and isotope ratios for several key N-bearing species. We study how these isotope ratios depend on various disk parameters.
Results. The formation of CN and HCN is closely coupled to the vibrational excitation of H2 in the UV-irradiated surface layers of the disk. Isotope fractionation is completely dominated by isotope-selective photodissociation of N2. The column density ratio of HCN over HC15N in the disk’s inner 100 au does not depend strongly on the disk mass, the flaring angle or the stellar spectrum, but it is sensitive to the grain size distribution. For larger grains, self-shielding of N2 becomes more important relative to dust extinction, leading to stronger isotope fractionation. Between disk radii of ~50 and 200 au, the models predict HCN/HC15N and CN/C15N abundance ratios consistent with observations of disks and comets. The HCN/HC15N and CN/C15N column density ratios in the models are a factor of 2–3 higher than those inferred from the ALMA observations.
Key words: protoplanetary disks / methods: numerical / astrochemistry / radiative transfer
© ESO 2018