How chemistry influences cloud structure, star formation, and the IMF

S. Hocuk*, S. Cazaux, M. Spaans, P. Caselli

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    In the earliest phases of star-forming clouds, stable molecular species, such as CO, are important coolants in the gas phase. Depletion of these molecules on dust surfaces affects the thermal balance of molecular clouds and with that their whole evolution. For the first time, we study the effect of grain surface chemistry (GSC) on star formation and its impact on the initial mass function (IMF). We follow a contracting translucent cloud in which we treat the gas-grain chemical interplay in detail, including the process of freeze-out. We perform 3D hydrodynamical simulations under three different conditions, a pure gas-phase model, a freeze-out model, and a complete chemistry model. The models display different thermal evolution during cloud collapse as also indicated in Hocuk, Cazaux & Spaans, but to a lesser degree because of a different dust temperature treatment, which is more accurate for cloud cores. The equation of state (EOS) of the gas becomes softer with CO freeze-out and the results show that at the onset of star formation, the cloud retains its evolution history such that the number of formed stars differ (by 7 per cent) between the three models. While the stellar mass distribution results in a different IMF when we consider pure freeze-out, with the complete treatment of the GSC, the divergence from a pure gas-phase model is minimal. We find that the impact of freeze-out is balanced by the non-thermal processes; chemical and photodesorption. We also find an average filament width of 0.12 pc (±0.03 pc), and speculate that this may be a result from the changes in the EOS caused by the gas-dust thermal coupling. We conclude that GSC plays a big role in the chemical composition of molecular clouds and that surface processes are needed to accurately interpret observations, however, that GSC does not have a significant impact as far as star formation and the IMF is concerned.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2586-2610
    Number of pages25
    JournalRoyal Astronomical Society. Monthly Notices
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


    • Astrochemistry
    • Dust, extinction
    • Equation of state
    • ISM: clouds

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