Sticky ice grains aid planet formation: Unusual properties of cryogenic water ice

H. Wang, R. C. Bell, M. J. Iedema, A. A. Tsekouras, J. P. Cowin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


There is limited time for the dust in the nebula around a newborn star to form planetesimals: in a few million years or less the star's stellar winds will disperse most of the unagglomerated dust. It has been difficult to explain the efficiency by which dust grains must have agglomerated to form planetesimals in circumstellar disks. A major obstacle is the fragility of aggregates, leading to collisional fragmentation, which makes it difficult for them to grow to, and beyond, meter-sized bodies. The distinct properties of cryogenic (5-100 K) amorphous water ice, which composes or coats the grains in the cooler parts of the nebulae (≳ Jovian distances), may be able to account for the rapid agglomeration. Measurements are presented that show that this ice readily acquires persistent macroscopic electric dipoles, strongly enhancing grain-grain adhesion. In addition, measurements were made showing that vapor-deposited amorphous water ice is also highly mechanically inelastic (≈10% rebound). Together these may explain this efficient net sticking and net growth. Similar properties of higher temperature grains may aid agglomeration in the inner regions of the nebulae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1027-1032
Number of pages6
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Feb 20 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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