Naturally occurring ices lie on both interstellar dust grains and on celestial objects, such as those in the outer Solar system. These ices are continuously subjected to irradiation by ions from the solar wind and/or cosmic rays, which modify their surfaces. As a result, new molecular species may form which can be sputtered off into space or planetary atmospheres. We determined the experimental values of sputtering yields for irradiation of oxygen ice at 10 K by singly (He+, C+, N+, O+ and Ar+) and doubly (C2 +, N2 + and O2 +) charged ions with 4 keV kinetic energy. In these laboratory experiments, oxygen ice was deposited and irradiated by ions in an ultra high vacuum chamber at low temperature to simulate the environment of space. The number of molecules removed by sputtering was observed by measurement of the ice thickness using laser interferometry. Preliminary mass spectra were taken of sputtered species and of molecules formed in the ice by temperature programmed desorption (TPD). We find that the experimental sputtering yields increase approximately linearly with the projectile ion mass (or momentum squared) for all ions studied. No difference was found between the sputtering yields for singly and doubly charged ions of the same atom within the experimental uncertainty, as expected for a process dominated by momentum transfer. The experimental sputter yields are in good agreement with values calculated using a theoretical model except in the case of oxygen ions. Preliminary studies have shown molecular oxygen as the dominant species sputtered and TPD measurements indicate ozone formation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)