Master equation for hydrogen recombination on grain surfaces

Ofer Biham, Itay Furman, Valerio Pirronello, Gianfranco Vidali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Recent experimental results on the formation of molecular hydrogen on astrophysically relevant surfaces under conditions similar to those encountered in the interstellar medium provided useful quantitative information about these processes. Rate equation analysis of experiments on olivine and amorphous carbon surfaces provided the activation energy barriers for the diffusion and desorption processes relevant to hydrogen recombination on these surfaces. However, the suitability of rate equations for the simulation of hydrogen recombination on interstellar grains, where there might be very few atoms on a grain at any given time, has been questioned. To resolve this problem, we introduce a master equation that takes into account both the discrete nature of the H atoms and the fluctuations in the number of atoms on a grain. The hydrogen recombination rate on microscopic grains, as a function of grain size and temperature, is then calculated using the master equation. The results are compared to those obtained from the rate equations, and the conditions under which the master equation is required are identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-603
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2001


  • Dust, extinction
  • ISM: abundances
  • ISM: molecules
  • Molecular processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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