DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stad2626 ISSN:

On the importance of disc chemistry in the formation of protoplanetary disc rings

C A Nolan, B Zhao, P Caselli, Z Y Li
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


Radial substructures have now been observed in a wide range of protoplanetary discs (PPDs), from young to old systems, however their formation is still an area of vigorous debate. Recent magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations have shown that rings and gaps can form naturally in PPDs when non-ideal MHD effects are included. However these simulations employ ad-hoc approximations to the magnitudes of the magnetic diffusivities in order to facilitate ring growth. We replace the parametrisation of these terms with a simple chemical network and grain distribution model to calculate the non-ideal effects in a more self-consistent way. We use a range of grain distributions to simulate grain formation for different disc conditions. Including ambipolar diffusion, we find that large grain populations (> 1μm), and those including a population of very small polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) facilitate the growth of periodic, stable rings, while intermediate sized grains suppress ring formation. Including Ohmic diffusion removes the positive influence of PAHs, with only large grain populations still producing periodic ring and gap structures. These results relate closely to the degree of coupling between the magnetic field and the neutral disc material, quantified by the non-dimensional Elsasser number Λ (the ratio of magnetic forces to Coriolis force). For both the ambipolar-only and ambipolar-ohmic cases, if the total Elsasser number is initially of order unity along the disc mid-plane, ring and gap structures may develop.

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