Energy Dissipation and Nonthermal Diffusion on Interstellar Ice Grains

A Fredon and T Lamberts and HM Cuppen, ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL, 849, 125 (2017).

DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aa8c05

Interstellar dust grains are known to facilitate chemical reactions by acting as a meeting place and adsorbing energy. This process strongly depends on the ability of the reactive species to effectively diffuse over the surface. The cold temperatures around 10. K strongly hamper this for species other than H and H-2. However, complex organic molecules have been observed in the gas phase at these cold conditions, indicating that their formation, as well as their return to the gas phase, should be effective. Here, we show how the energy released following surface reactions can be employed to solve both problems by inducing desorption or diffusion. To this purpose, we have performed thousands of Molecular Dynamics simulations to quantify the outcome of an energy dissipation process. Admolecules on top of a crystalline water surface have been given translational energy between 0.5 and 5. eV. Three different surface species are considered (CO2, H2O, and CH4), spanning a range in binding energies, number of internal degrees of freedom, and molecular weights. The admolecules are found to be able to travel up to several hundreds of angstroms before coming to a stand still, allowing for follow-up reactions en route. The probability of travel beyond any particular radius, as determined by our simulations, shows the same r dependence for all three admolecule species. Furthermore, we have been able to quantify the desorption probability, which depends on the binding energy of the species and the translational excitation. We provide expressions that can be incorporated in astrochemical models to predict grain surface formation and return into the gas phase of these products.

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