Dust Destruction by Drift-induced Sputtering in Active Galactic Nuclei

Ryo Tazaki, Kohei Ichikawa

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Recent mid-infrared high spatial resolution observations have revealed that active galactic nuclei (AGNs) may host a polar dust region with the size of several pc, and such dust may be carried by radiation from the central engine. The polar dust emission often exhibits very weak or absence of the silicate 10 μm emission feature. A possible explanation is that the polar dust is dominated by micron-sized large grains because these grains do not show the silicate feature, while it remains unclear how large grains are preferentially supplied to the polar region. Here, we propose a new scenario describing the prevalence of large grains at the polar region. We show that grains are accelerated to the hypersonic drift velocity by the radiation pressure from AGN, and the hypersonic drift results in dust destruction via kinetic sputtering. Sputtering destroys small grains faster than the large ones, and thus larger grains will be preferentially blown over longer distance. Although the hypersonic drift, or kinetic sputtering, tends to be suppressed for very small grains due to the Coulomb drag, they might also be disrupted by Coulomb explosion. Removal of small grains and/or survival of large grains may explain the lack of a silicate 10 μm emission feature in polar dust emission.

Original languageEnglish
Article number149
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Apr 1


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