Recent experimental results support the importance of H2 production in molecular clouds by cosmic ray bombardment of the mantles of grains. The formation of molecules different from those originally present in the irradiated layer can be explained by the production of molecular fragments induced by the release of energy if the impinging fast particle. One way of considering the process is in terms of a transiently hot cylinder, initially about 50 A in diameter, that exists around the track of an individual fast ion. Since ice has a relatively low thermal conductivity, energy lost by the ion in the ice layers remains confined around the track for time long enough to be thermalized. The hot cylinder increases in diameter and decreases in temperature on a time scale of 10(exp -11) to 10(exp -10) sec. Molecular fragments that are formed in this high temperature region acquire enough mobility to recombine with different partners, forming new molecules. A Monte Carlo simulation of the interaction between cosmic rays and grain mantles, at various depths in the core of a spherical molecular cloud, was performed. The simulation was continued until 40,000 ions had hit each grain of the type and size chosen. During the performed experiments thin icy films made of H2O and CD4 mixed in the gas phase and deposited on a cold finger at 9 K were irradiated with 1.5 MeV helium beams. Among synthesized molecules were found H2, HD, and D2.
NASA, Ames Research Center, Interstellar Dust: Contributed Papers; p 261-264