Authors: Accolla, Mario; Santoro, Gonzalo; Merino, Pablo; Martinez, Lidia; Tajuelo-Castilla, Guillermo; Vazquez, Luis; Sobrado, Jesus M.; Agundez, Marcelino; Jimenez-Redondo, Miguel; Herrero, Victor J.; Tanarro, Isabel; Cernicharo, Jose; Martin-Gago, Jose Angel


Publication date: 2021/01/01

DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/abc703

Abstract: Silicon is present in interstellar dust grains, meteorites and asteroids, and to date 13 silicon-bearing molecules have been detected in the gas phase toward late-type stars or molecular clouds, including silane and silane derivatives. In this work, we have experimentally studied the interaction between atomic silicon and hydrogen under physical conditions mimicking those in the atmosphere of evolved stars. We have found that the chemistry of Si, H, and H-2 efficiently produces silane (SiH4), disilane (Si2H6) and amorphous hydrogenated silicon (a-Si:H) grains. Silane has been definitely detected toward the carbon-rich star IRC +10216, while disilane has not been detected in space yet. Thus, based on our results, we propose that gas-phase reactions of atomic Si with H and H-2 are a plausible source of silane in C-rich asymptotic giant branch stars, although its contribution to the total SiH4 abundance may be low in comparison with the suggested formation route by catalytic reactions on the surface of dust grains. In addition, the produced a-Si:H dust analogs decompose into SiH4 and Si2H6 at temperatures above 500 K, suggesting an additional mechanism of formation of these species in envelopes around evolved stars. We have also found that the exposure of these dust analogs to water vapor leads to the incorporation of oxygen into Si-O-Si and Si-OH groups at the expense of SiH moieties, which implies that if this kind of grain is present in the interstellar medium, it will probably be processed into silicates through the interaction with water ices covering the surface of dust grains.