Three-dimensional off-lattice Monte Carlo kinetics simulations of interstellar grain chemistry and ice structure

The first off-lattice Monte Carlo kinetics model of interstellar dust-grain surface chemistry is presented. The positions of all surface particles are determined explicitly, according to the local potential minima resulting from the pair-wise interactions of contiguous atoms and molecules, rather than by a pre-defined lattice structure. The model is capable of simulating chemical kinetics on any arbitrary dust-grain morphology, as determined by the user-defined positions of each individual dust-grain atom. A simple method is devised for the determination of the most likely diffusion pathways and their associated energy barriers for surface species. The model is applied to a small, idealized dust grain, adopting various gas densities and using a small chemical network. Hydrogen and oxygen atoms accrete onto the grain, to produce H2O, H2, O2 and H2O2. The off-lattice method allows the ice structure to evolve freely; ice mantle porosity is found to be dependent on the gas density, which controls the accretion rate. A gas density of 2 x 10^{4} cm^{-3}, appropriate to dark interstellar clouds, is found to produce a fairly smooth and non-porous ice mantle. At all densities, H2 molecules formed on the grains collect within the crevices that divide nodules of ice, and within micropores (whose extreme inward curvature produces strong local potential minima). The larger pores produced in the high-density models are not typically filled with H2. Direct deposition of water molecules onto the grain indicates that amorphous ices formed in this way may be significantly more porous than interstellar ices that are formed by surface chemistry.

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Date added: Thu, 10 Oct 13