Rocky Planetesimal Formation Aided by Organics

Kazuaki A. Homma, Satoshi Okuzumi, Taishi Nakamoto, and Yuta Ueda

The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 877, Number 2


“The poor stickiness of silicate dust grains is a major obstacle to the formation of rocky planetesimals. In this study, we examine the possibility that silicate grains with an organic mantle, which we call Organic-mantled Grains (OMGs), form planetesimals through direct coagulation. Organic mantles are commonly found in interplanetary dust particles, and laboratory experiments show that they are softer than silicates, in particular in warm environments. This, combined with the theory of particle adhesion, implies that OMGs are stickier than bare silicate grains. Because organic mantles can survive up to 400 K, silicate grains inside the water snow line in protoplanetary disks can in principle hold such mantles. We construct a simple grain adhesion model to estimate the threshold collision velocity below which aggregates of OMGs can grow. The model shows that aggregates of 0.1μm-sized OMGs can overcome the fragmentation barrier in protoplanetary disks if the mantles are as thick as those in interplanetary dust particles and if the temperature is above ~200 K. We use this adhesion model to simulate the global evolution of OMG aggregates in the inner part of a protoplanetary disk, demonstrating that OMG aggregates can indeed grow into planetesimals under favorable conditions. Because organic matter is unstable at excessively high temperatures, rocky planetesimal formation by the direct sticking of OMGs is expected to occur in a disk annulus corresponding to the temperature range ~200–400 K. The organic-rich planetesimals may grow into carbon-poor rocky planetesimals by accreting a large amount of carbon-poor chondrules.”