Dust cloud evolution in sub-stellar atmospheres via plasma deposition and plasma sputtering

C. R. Stark, D. A. Diver

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    Abstract

    Context. In contemporary sub-stellar model atmospheres, dust growth occurs through neutral gas-phase surface chemistry. Recently, there has been a growing body of theoretical and observational evidence suggesting that ionisation processes can also occur. As a result, atmospheres are populated by regions composed of plasma, gas and dust, and the consequent influence of plasma processes on dust evolution is enhanced.

    Aim. This paper aims to introduce a new model of dust growth and destruction in sub-stellar atmospheres via plasma deposition and plasma sputtering.

    Methods. Using example sub-stellar atmospheres from DRIFT-PHOENIX, we have compared plasma deposition and sputtering timescales to those from neutral gas-phase surface chemistry to ascertain their regimes of influence. We calculated the plasma sputtering yield and discuss the circumstances where plasma sputtering dominates over deposition.

    Results. Within the highest dust density cloud regions, plasma deposition and sputtering dominates over neutral gas-phase surface chemistry if the degree of ionisation is ≳10−4. Loosely bound grains with surface binding energies of the order of 0.1–1 eV are susceptible to destruction through plasma sputtering for feasible degrees of ionisation and electron temperatures; whereas, strong crystalline grains with binding energies of the order 10 eV are resistant to sputtering.

    Conclusions. The mathematical framework outlined sets the foundation for the inclusion of plasma deposition and plasma sputtering in global dust cloud formation models of sub-stellar atmospheres.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberA91
    Number of pages8
    JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
    Volume611
    Early online date6 Apr 2018
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

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