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Evolution of PAHs in Protoplanetary Disks

  • C. Joblin, A.G.G.M. Tielens and I. Kamp (a1)

Abstract

Depending on whom you ask, PAHs are either the smallest dust particles or the largest gas-phase molecules in space. Whether referred to as gas or dust, these PAHs can contain up to20% of the total cosmic carbon abundance and as such also play an important role in the carbon chemistry of protoplanetary disks. The interpretation of PAH bands is often a complex procedure involving not only gas physics to determine their ionization stage and temperature, but also radiative transfer effects that can bury these bands in a strong thermal continuum from a population of larger dust particles.

PAHs are most readily seen in the spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of disks around Herbig AeBe stars where they are photoprocessed by the stellar radiation field. Resolved images taken in the PAH bands confirm their origin in the flaring surfaces of circumstellar disks: if the SED is consistent with a flat disk structure (less illuminated), there is little or no evidence of PAH emission. The very low detection rates in the disks around T Tauri stars often require an overall lower abundance of PAHs in these disk surface as compared to that in molecular clouds.

In this review, I will adress three aspects of PAHs in protoplanetary disks: (1) Do PAHs form in protoplanetary disks or do they originate from the precursor molecular cloud? (2) Is the presence of PAH features in SEDs a consequence of the disk structure or do PAHs in fact shape the disk structure? (3) How can we use PAHs as tracers of processes in protoplanetary disks?

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References

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