The chemically controlled cosmos
- T. W. Hartquist, D. A. Williams
The formation of molecular hydrogen in the interstellar medium takes place on the surfaces of dust grains. Hydrogen molecules play a role in gasphase reactions that produce other molecules, some of which serve as coolants during gravitational collapse and star formation. Thus, the evaluation of the production rate of hydrogen molecules and its dependence on the physical conditions in the cloud are of great importance. Interstellar dust grains exhibit a broad size distribution in which the small grains capture most of the surface area. Recent studies have shown that the production efficiency strongly depends on the grain composition and temperature as well as on its size. In this paper we present a formula which provides the total production rate of H2 per unit volume in the cloud, taking into account the grain composition and temperature as well as the grain size distribution. The formula agrees very well with the master equation results. It shows that for a physically relevant range of grain temperatures, the production rate of H2 is significantly enhanced due to their broad size distribution.