The impact of freeze-out on collapsing molecular clouds

S. Hocuk, S. Cazaux, M. Spaans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Atoms and molecules, and in particular CO, are important coolants during the evolution of interstellar star-forming gas clouds. The presence of dust grains, which allow many chemical reactions to occur on their surfaces, strongly impacts the chemical composition of a cloud. At low temperatures, dust grains can lock up species from the gas phase which freeze out and form ices. In this sense, dust can deplete important coolants. Our aim is to understand the effects of freeze-out on the thermal balance and the evolution of a gravitationally bound molecular cloud. For this purpose, we perform 3D hydrodynamical simulations with the adaptive mesh code FLASH. We simulate a gravitationally unstable cloud under two different conditions, with and without grain surface chemistry. We let the cloud evolve until one free-fall time is reached and track the thermal evolution and the abundances of species during this time. We see that at a number density of 104 cm-3 most of the CO molecules are frozen on dust grains in the run with grain surface chemistry, thereby depriving the most important coolant. As a consequence, we find that the temperature of the gas rises up to ̃25 K. The temperature drops once again due to gas-grain collisional cooling when the density reaches a few × 104 cm-3.We conclude that grain surface chemistry not only affects the chemical abundances in the gas phase, but also leaves a distinct imprint in the thermal evolution that impacts the fragmentation of a star-forming cloud. As a final step, we present the equation of state of a collapsing molecular cloud that has grain surface chemistry included.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • Dust, extinction
  • Hydrodynamics
  • ISM: Abundances
  • Stars: formation

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