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Hard X-ray irradiation of cosmic silicate analogs: structural evolution and astrophysical implications

Abstract : Context. Protoplanetary disks, interstellar clouds, and active galactic nuclei, contain X-ray dominated regions. X-rays interact with the dust and gas present in such environments. While a few laboratory X-ray irradiation experiments have been performed on ices, X-ray irradiation experiments on bare cosmic dust analogs have been scarce up to now. Aims. Our goal is to study the effects of hard X-rays on cosmic dust analogs via in-situ X-ray diffraction. By using a hard X-ray synchrotron nanobeam, we seek to simulate cumulative X-ray exposure on dust grains during their lifetime in these astrophysical environments, and provide an upper limit on the effect of hard X-rays on dust grain structure. Methods. We prepared enstatite (MgSiO 3) nanograins, analogs to cosmic silicates, via the melting-quenching technique. These amorphous grains were then annealed to obtain polycrystalline grains. These were characterized via scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) before irradiation. Powder samples were prepared in X-ray transparent substrates and were irradiated with hard X-rays nanobeams (29.4 keV) provided by beamline ID16B of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (Grenoble). X-ray diffraction images were recorded in transmission mode and the ensuing diffractograms were analyzed as a function of the total X-ray exposure time. Results. We detected the amorphization of polycrystalline silicates embedded in an organic matrix after an accumulated X-ray exposure of 6.4 × 10 27 eV cm −2. Pure crystalline silicate grains (without resin) did not exhibit amorphization. None of the amorphous silicate samples (pure and embedded in resin) underwent crystallization. We analyzed the evolution of the polycrystalline sample embedded in an organic matrix as a function of X-ray exposure. Conclusions. Loss of diffraction peak intensity, peak broadening, and the disappearance of discrete spots and arcs, revealed the amorphization of the resin embedded (originally polycrystalline) silicate sample. We explore the astrophysical implications of this laboratory result as an upper-limit to the effect of X-rays on the structure of cosmic silicates.
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Contributor : Serge Palacin <>
Submitted on : Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 6:03:05 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - 5:26:13 PM

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L Gavilan, C Jäger, A Simionovici, T Sabri, J.L. Lemaire, et al.. Hard X-ray irradiation of cosmic silicate analogs: structural evolution and astrophysical implications. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, EDP Sciences, 2016, 587, pp.A144. ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/201527708⟩. ⟨cea-01296349⟩



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