Analysis of molecular hydrogen formation on low-temperature surfaces in temperature programmed desorption experiments

G. Vidali, V. Pirronello, L. Li, J. Roser, G. Mancó, E. Congiu, H. Mehl, A. Lederhendler, H. B. Perets, J. R. Brucato, O. Biham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The study of the formation of molecular hydrogen on low-temperature surfaces is of interest both because it enables the exploration of elementary steps in the heterogeneous catalysis of a simple molecule and because of its applications in astrochemistry. Here, we report results of experiments of molecular hydrogen formation on amorphous silicate surfaces using temperature-programmed desorption (TPD). In these experiments, beams of H and D atoms are irradiated on the surface of an amorphous silicate sample. The desorption rate of HD molecules is monitored using a mass spectrometer during a subsequent TPD run. The results are analyzed using rate equations, and the energy barriers of the processes leading to molecular hydrogen formation are obtained from the TPD data. We show that a model based on a single isotope provides the correct results for the activation energies for diffusion and desorption of H atoms. These results are used in order to evaluate the formation rate of H2 on dust grains under the actual conditions present in interstellar clouds. It is found that, under typical conditions in diffuse interstellar clouds, amorphous silicate grains are efficient catalysts of H 2 formation when the grain temperatures are between 9 and 14 K. This temperature window is within the typical range of grain temperatures in diffuse clouds. It is thus concluded that amorphous silicates are good candidates to be efficient catalysts of H2 formation in diffuse clouds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12611-12619
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 13 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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