skip to main content

Title: Metastable insertion reactions on interstellar ices

The formation of complex organic molecules (COMs) in interstellar conditions is influenced by several different processes occurring both in the gas and solid phases. Here we perform an extension of previous work to understand the influence of electronically excited metastable species on condensed phase COM formation via insertion-type reactions. These reactions involve the insertion of a chemical entity on a previously existing chemical bond. Such insertion processes involving a metastable species allow for rapid reactions with the surrounding grain ice in the absence of activation energy or diffusion barriers even under cold, dark cloud conditions. In this paper, the production of a number of interstellar species including COMs in cold dark clouds is treated both via the metastable process as well as existing suggested pathways such as radical recombination and hydrogenation of unsaturated species in order to gain insight about the relative importance of the newly added process.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Medium: X Size: p. 4622-4631
["p. 4622-4631"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this

    In the interstellar medium (ISM), the formation of complex organic molecules (COMs) is largely facilitated by surface reactions. However, in cold dark clouds, thermal desorption of COMs is inefficient because of the lack of thermal energy to overcome binding energies to the grain surface. Non-thermal desorption methods are therefore important explanations for the gas-phase detection of many COMs that are primarily formed on grains. Here, we present a new non-thermal desorption process: cosmic ray sputtering of grain ice surfaces based on water, carbon dioxide, and a simple mixed ice. Our model applies estimated rates of sputtering to the three-phase rate equation model nautilus-1.1, where this inclusion results in enhanced gas-phase abundances for molecules produced by grain reactions such as methanol (CH3OH) and methyl formate (HCOOCH3). Notably, species with efficient gas-phase destruction pathways exhibit less of an increase in models with sputtering compared to other molecules. These model results suggest that sputtering is an efficient, non-specific method of non-thermal desorption that should be considered as an important factor in future chemical models.

    more » « less
  2. ABSTRACT The detection of many complex organic molecules (COMs) in interstellar space has sparked the study of their origins. While the formation of COMs detected in hot cores is attributed to photochemistry on warming grain surfaces followed by recombination of radicals and desorption, the formation routes in colder regions are still a debated issue with a number of theories such as cosmic ray bombardment on interstellar ice mantles or non-diffusive surface chemistry. Here, we present another method with reactions involving metastable atomic oxygen in the O(1D) state, which is initially produced by photodissociation of oxygen-containing species in interstellar ices. As a first example, we study the reactions of metastable oxygen atoms and methane in ices to form both formaldehyde and methanol. The reaction is studied incorporating two different surface processes: diffusive and non-diffusive chemistry. The formation of methanol and formaldehyde via metastable oxygen atoms is compared with well-known formation routes of both to understand the O(1D) contributions at different temperatures. 
    more » « less
  3. ABSTRACT Determining the level of chemical complexity within dense starless and gravitationally bound pre-stellar cores is crucial for constructing chemical models, which subsequently constrain the initial chemical conditions of star formation. We have searched for complex organic molecules (COMs) in the young starless core L1521E, and report the first clear detection of dimethyl ether (CH3OCH3), methyl formate (HCOOCH3), and vinyl cyanide (CH2CHCN). Eight transitions of acetaldehyde (CH3CHO) were also detected, five of which (A states) were used to determine an excitation temperature to then calculate column densities for the other oxygen-bearing COMs. If source size was not taken into account (i.e. if filling fraction was assumed to be one), column density was underestimated, and thus we stress the need for higher resolution mapping data. We calculated L1521E COM abundances and compared them to other stages of low-mass star formation, also finding similarities to other starless/pre-stellar cores, suggesting related chemical evolution. The scenario that assumes formation of COMs in gas-phase reactions between precursors formed on grains and then ejected to the cold gas via reactive desorption was tested and was unable to reproduce observed COM abundances, with the exception of CH3CHO. These results suggest that COMs observed in cold gas are formed not by gas-phase reactions alone, but also through surface reactions on interstellar grains. Our observations present a new, unique challenge for existing theoretical astrochemical models. 
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Complex organic molecules (COMs) have been detected in a variety of interstellar sources. The abundances of these COMs in warming sources can be explained by syntheses linked to increasing temperatures and densities, allowing quasi-thermal chemical reactions to occur rapidly enough to produce observable amounts of COMs, both in the gas phase, and upon dust grain ice mantles. The COMs produced on grains then become gaseous as the temperature increases sufficiently to allow their thermal desorption. The recent observation of gaseous COMs in cold sources has not been fully explained by these gas-phase and dust grain production routes. Radiolysis chemistry is a possible non-thermal method of producing COMs in cold dark clouds. This new method greatly increases the modelled abundance of selected COMs upon the ice surface and within the ice mantle due to excitation and ionization events from cosmic ray bombardment. We examine the effect of radiolysis on three C2H4O2 isomers – methyl formate (HCOOCH3), glycolaldehyde (HCOCH2OH), and acetic acid (CH3COOH) – and a chemically similar molecule, dimethyl ether (CH3OCH3), in cold dark clouds. We then compare our modelled gaseous abundances with observed abundances in TMC-1, L1689B, and B1-b. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    A new, more comprehensive model of gas–grain chemistry in hot molecular cores is presented, in which nondiffusive reaction processes on dust-grain surfaces and in ice mantles are implemented alongside traditional diffusive surface/bulk-ice chemistry. We build on our nondiffusive treatments used for chemistry in cold sources, adopting a standard collapse/warm-up physical model for hot cores. A number of other new chemical model inputs and treatments are also explored in depth, culminating in a final model that demonstrates excellent agreement with gas-phase observational abundances for many molecules, including some (e.g., methoxymethanol) that could not be reproduced by conventional diffusive mechanisms. The observed ratios of structural isomers methyl formate, glycolaldehyde, and acetic acid are well reproduced by the models. The main temperature regimes in which various complex organic molecules (COMs) are formed are identified. Nondiffusive chemistry advances the production of many COMs to much earlier times and lower temperatures than in previous model implementations. Those species may form either as by-products of simple-ice production, or via early photochemistry within the ices while external UV photons can still penetrate. Cosmic ray-induced photochemistry is less important than in past models, although it affects some species strongly over long timescales. Another production regime occurs during the high-temperature desorption of solid water, whereby radicals trapped in the ice are released onto the grain/ice surface, where they rapidly react. Several recently proposed gas-phase COM-production mechanisms are also introduced, but they rarely dominate. New surface/ice reactions involving CH and CH2are found to contribute substantially to the formation of certain COMs.

    more » « less