Skip to main content

A laboratory-driven multiscale investigation of X-ray induced mass loss and photochemical evolution in cosmic carbon and silicate dust


Gavilan, Lisseth; Ho, Phay; Ogasawara, Hirohito; Jager, Cornelia; Salama, Farid; Gorti, Uma


We present the results of an integrated laboratory and modeling investigation into the impact of stellar X-rays on cosmic dust. Carbonaceous grains were prepared in a cooled (<200 K) supersonic expansion from aromatic molecular precursors, and were later irradiated with 970 eV X-rays. Silicate (enstatite) grains were prepared via laser ablation, thermally annealed, and later irradiated with 500 eV X-rays. Infrared spectra of the 3.4 mu m band of the carbon sample prepared with benzene revealed 84% +/- 5% band area loss for an X-ray dose of 5.2 x10(23) Infrared spectra of the 8-12 mu m Si-O band of the silicate sample revealed band area loss up to 63% +/- 5% for doses of 2.3 x 10(23) A hybrid Monte Carlo particle trajectory approach was used to model the impact of X-rays and ensuing photoelectrons, Auger and collisionally ionized electrons through the bulk. As a result of X-ray ionization and ensuing Coulomb explosions on surface molecules, the calculated mass loss is 60% for the carbonaceous sample and 46% for the silicate sample, within a factor of 2 of the IR band loss, supporting an X-ray induced mass-loss mechanism. We apply the laboratory X-ray destruction rates to estimate the lifetimes of dust grains in protoplanetary disks surrounding 1 M (circle dot) and 0.1 M (circle dot) G and M stars. In both cases, X-ray destruction timescales are short (a few million years) at the disk surface, but are found to be much longer than typical disk lifetimes (greater than or similar to 10 Myr) over the disk bulk.