Energetic processing of interstellar silicate grains by cosmic rays

E. M. Bringa, S. O. Kucheyev, M. J. Loeffler, R. A. Baragiola, A. G.G.M. Tielens, Z. R. Dai, G. Graham, S. Bajt, J. P. Bradley, C. A. Dukes, T. E. Felter, D. F. Torres, W. Van Breugel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


While a significant fraction of silicate dust in stellar winds has a crystalline structure, in the interstellar medium nearly all of it is amorphous. One possible explanation for this observation is the amorphization of crystalline silicates by relatively "low" energy, heavy-ion cosmic rays. Here we present the results of multiple laboratory experiments showing that single-crystal synthetic forsterite (Mg2SiO4) amorphizes when irradiated by 10 MeV Xe ions at large enough fluences. Using modeling, we extrapolate these results to show that 0.1-5.0 GeV heavy-ion cosmic rays can rapidly (∼70 Myr) amorphize crystalline silicate grains ejected by stars into the interstellar medium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-378
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Jun 10 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cosmic rays
  • Dust, extinction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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