Research ArticleChemistry

Low temperature rates for key steps of interstellar gas-phase water formation

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Science Advances  22 Jun 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 6, eaar3417
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar3417


The gas-phase formation of water molecules in the diffuse interstellar medium (ISM) proceeds mainly via a series of reactions involving the molecular ions OH+, H2O+, and H3O+ and molecular hydrogen. These reactions form the backbone for the chemistry leading to the formation of several complex molecular species in space. A comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms involved in these reactions in the ISM necessitates an accurate knowledge of the rate coefficients at the relevant temperatures (10 to 100 K). We present measurements of the rate coefficients for two key reactions below 100 K, which, in both cases, are significantly higher than the values used in astronomical models thus far. The experimental rate coefficients show excellent agreement with dedicated theoretical calculations using a novel ring-polymer molecular dynamics approach that offers a first-principles treatment of low-temperature barrierless gas-phase reactions, which are prevalent in interstellar chemical networks.

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