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Dust and the Gas Phase Composition of Dense Clouds

  • C. M. Walmsley (a1)

Abstract

A review is given of our current knowledge of the gas phase abundance of interstellar molecules. A comparison is made between cold dust clouds, where presumably gas phase processes dominate the chemistry, and regions of high mass star formation such as Orion where both shocks and evaporation of dust grain mantles may play a role. In dust clouds, carbon rich molecules often show enhanced abundances, whereas in hot turbulent star formation regions, saturated species such as methanol and ammonia are often favored. In both types of source, there is evidence for abundance gradients and inhomogeneities. A probable cause is that the chemistry is far from a steady state situation. A useful diagnostic in such cases is the relative abundance of deuterated species and our current knowledge concerning deuterium fractionation is discussed. Recent results show that the observed degree of deuterium enhancement in species such as water, methanol, and ammonia in the Orion-KL region is much too great to be explained on the basis of normal gas phase chemistry. It is argued that a plausible explanation of the observations is that one is observing material which has recently been evaporated from dust grain mantles. One important consequence of this hypothesis is that molecular line observations may yield important information on the composition of the solid phase.

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