Complex organic molecules in protoplanetary disks

Catherine Walsh*, Tom. J. Millar, Hideko Nomura, Eric Herbst, Susanna Widicus Weaver, Yuri Aikawa, Jacob C. Laas, Anton I. Vasyunin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Context. Protoplanetary disks are vital objects in star and planet formation, possessing all the material, gas and dust, which may form a planetary system orbiting the new star. Small, simple molecules have traditionally been detected in protoplanetary disks; however, in the ALMA era, we expect the molecular inventory of protoplanetary disks to significantly increase.

Aims. We investigate the synthesis of complex organic molecules (COMs) in protoplanetary disks to put constraints on the achievable chemical complexity and to predict species and transitions which may be observable with ALMA.

Methods. We have coupled a 2D steady-state physical model of a protoplanetary disk around a typical T Tauri star with a large gas-grain chemical network including COMs. We compare the resulting column densities with those derived from observations and perform ray-tracing calculations to predict line spectra. We compare the synthesised line intensities with current observations and determine those COMs which may be observable in nearby objects. We also compare the predicted grain-surface abundances with those derived from cometary comae observations.

Results. We find COMs are efficiently formed in the disk midplane via grain-surface chemical reactions, reaching peak grain-surface fractional abundances similar to 10(-6)-10(-4) that of the H nuclei number density. COMs formed on grain surfaces are returned to the gas phase via non-thermal desorption; however, gas-phase species reach lower fractional abundances than their grain-surface equivalents, similar to 10(-12)-10(-7). Including the irradiation of grain mantle material helps build further complexity in the ice through the replenishment of grain-surface radicals which take part in further grain-surface reactions. There is reasonable agreement with several line transitions of H2CO observed towards T Tauri star-disk systems. There is poor agreement with HC3(N) lines observed towards LkCa 15 and GO Tau and we discuss possible explanations for these discrepancies. The synthesised line intensities for CH3OH are consistent with upper limits determined towards all sources. Our models suggest CH3OH should be readily observable in nearby protoplanetary disks with ALMA; however, detection of more complex species may prove challenging, even with ALMA "Full Science" capabilities. Our grain-surface abundances are consistent with those derived from cometary comae observations providing additional evidence for the hypothesis that comets (and other planetesimals) formed via the coagulation of icy grains in the Sun's natal disk.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA33
Number of pages35
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Volume563
Early online date28 Feb 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Keywords

  • protoplanetary disks
  • astrochemistry
  • ISM: molecules
  • stars: formation
  • GAS-GRAIN CHEMISTRY
  • INTERSTELLAR ICE ANALOGS
  • YOUNG CIRCUMSTELLAR DISKS
  • PLANET-FORMING ZONES
  • MAIN-SEQUENCE STARS
  • X-RAY-IRRADIATION
  • CO SNOW LINE
  • O1 HALE-BOPP
  • ACCRETION DISKS
  • T-TAURI

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