On the Aliphatic Versus Aromatic Content of the Carriers of the 'Unidentified' Infrared Emission Features


Although it is generally accepted that the unidentified infrared emission (UIE) features at 3.3, 6.2, 7.7, 8.6, and 11.3 μm are characteristic of the stretching and bending vibrations of aromatic hydrocarbon materials, the exact nature of their carriers remains unknown: whether they are free-flying, predominantly aromatic gas-phase molecules, or amorphous solids with a mixed aromatic/aliphatic composition are being debated. Recently, the 3.3 and 3.4 μm features which are commonly respectively attributed to aromatic and aliphatic C-H stretches have been used to place an upper limit of ∼2 per cent on the aliphatic fraction of the UIE carriers (i.e. the number of C atoms in aliphatic chains to that in aromatic rings). Here we further explore the aliphatic versus aromatic content of the UIE carriers by examining the ratio of the observed intensity of the 6.2 μm aromatic C-C feature (I6.2) to that of the 6.85 μm aliphatic C-H deformation feature (I6.85). To derive the intrinsic oscillator strengths of the 6.2 μm stretch (A6.2) and the 6.85 μm deformation (A6.85), we employ density functional theory to compute the vibrational spectra of seven methylated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules and their cations. By comparing I6.85/I6.2 with A6.85/A6.2, we derive the fraction of C atoms in methyl(ene) aliphatic form to be at most ∼10 per cent, confirming the earlier finding that the UIE emitters are predominantly aromatic. We have also computed the intrinsic strength of the 7.25 μm feature (A7.25), another aliphatic C-H deformation band. We find that A6.85 appreciably exceeds A7.25. This explains why the 6.85 μm feature is more frequently detected in space than the 7.25 μm feature.



Keywords and Phrases

Dust; Extinction; Infrared: ISM; ISM: lines and bands; ISM: molecules

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0035-8711; 1365-2966

Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2016 Oxford University Press, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jul 2016