3.2. "Exact-Statistical" Approach

As discussed in Section 3.1, in most cases soon after the photoabsorption an isolated nanoparticle (or large molecule) converts almost all of the initial photoexcitation energy to vibrational energy of the highly vibrationally excited ground electronic state, and hence for both neutrals and ions, IR emission is always the dominant deactivation process. Therefore, it is reasonable to model the stochastic heating of a nanoparticle in terms of pure vibrational transitions.

Ideally, if both the vibrational energy levels and the level-to-level transition probabilities were known, we could (at least in principle) solve for the statistical steady-state populations of the different energy levels of grains illuminated by a known radiation field. However, this level of detailed information is generally unavailable, for even the smallest and simplest PAH molecules.

Draine & Li (2001) developed an "exact-statistical" theory for modeling the photoexcitation and emission processes of nanoparticles. In this theory, the state of the grain is characterized by its vibrational energy E. Since there are too many vibrational energy levels to consider individually, they are grouped into (M + 1) "bins" j = 0,..., M, where the j-th bin is [Ej, min, Ej, max), with representative energy Ej (Ej, min + Ej, max) / 2, and width Ej (Ej, max - Ej, min) (see Fig. 3 for illustration). Let Pj be the probability of finding the grain in bin j. The probability vector Pj evolves according to dPi / dt = ji Tij Pj - ji Tji Pi for i = 0, 1,..., M, where the transition matrix element Tij is the probability per unit time for a grain in bin j to make a transition to one of the levels in bin i. If we define the diagonal elements of T to be Tii - ji Tji, then under the steady state condition (i.e. dPi / dt = 0 for i = 0, 1,..., M) the state probability evolution equation becomes j=0M Tij Pj = 0 for i = 0,..., M. Combining this with the normalization condition j=0M Pj = 1, we obtain a set of M linear equations for the first M elements of Pj: j=0M-1 (Tij - TiM)Pj = - TiM for i = 0,..., M - 1, which we solve using the bi-conjugate gradient (BiCG) method. The remaining undetermined element PM is obtained by PM = - (TMM)-1 j=0M-1 TMj Pj.

 Figure 3. Schematic diagram of the vibrational excitation and relaxation processes in nanoparticles (or large molecules). The vibrational energy levels are grouped into (M + 1) "bins" j = 0,..., M, where the j-th bin is [Ej, min, Ej, max), with representative energy Ej (Ej, min + Ej, max) / 2, and width Ej (Ej, max - Ej, min). The ground state is set at E0, min = E0, max = E0 = 0 (see Appendix B of Draine & Li 2001 for the procedure for specifying the bins). The wiggly arrow represents an event of photon absorption (left) or emission (right). The small arrows within the bin u and bin l represent the "intrabin" transitions. With the bin-to-bin transition rates determined, we can solve for the statistical steady-state populations of the different energy states of grains illuminated by a known radiation field, and then calculate the resulting IR emission spectra.

The rates for downward transitions u l can be determined from a detailed balance analysis of the Einstein A coefficient. Similarly, if the bin width is sufficiently small, the u l de-excitation rate can be approximated as Tlu (8 / h3 c2) gl / gu Eu / (Eu - El) E3 × Cabs(E)[1 + (h3 c2 / 8 E3) uE] for l < u -1, where the uE-containing term is the contribution of stimulated emission, and the degeneracies gu and gl are the numbers of energy states in bins u and l, respectively: gj N(Ej, max) - N(Ej, min) (dN / dE)Ej Ej, where (dN / dE)Ej is the vibrational density of states at internal energy Ej, which corresponds to the number of ways of distributing this energy between different modes of this grain. Again, we refer the reader to Draine & Li (2001) for finite bin width corrections as well as "intrabin" radiation consideration (see Eqs.[29-31] of Draine & Li 2001).

It is seen from the above discussions that we require only Cabs(E), the degeneracies gj, and the starlight spectrum uE to completely determine the transition matrix Tij. A molecule containing Na atoms will have Nm = 3Na - 6 distinct vibrational modes (plus 3 translational degrees of freedom and 3 rotational degrees of freedom). If the molecule is approximated as a set of Nm harmonic oscillators, and the frequencies of all normal modes of this molecule are known, we can calculate N(E), the number of distinct vibrational states with total vibrational energy less than or equal to E, using the Beyer-Swinehart algorithm (Beyer & Swinehart 1973; Stein & Rabinovitch 1973). So far, the frequencies of these normal modes have been computed only for a small number of PAHs, with some frequencies determined experimentally, but mode spectra are not yet available for most PAHs of interest.

Since exact densities of states are often unknown for interstellar PAHs, the Whitten & Rabinovitch (1963) approximation, a semi-empirical expression, has been extensively used in literature: (E) = (E + Ez)Nm-1 / [(Nm - 1)! i=1Nm hi] where (E) is the density of states (the number of accessible vibrational states per unit energy) at internal energy E, Ez = i=1Nm (hi / 2) is the total zero point energy of the molecule, i is the vibrational frequency, and 0 < < 1 is an empirical correction factor.

In contrast, the Draine & Li (2001) "exact-statistical" theory does not need this approximation; instead, they calculate the "theoretical" mode spectrum from the Debye model. A PAH molecule containing NC C atoms and NH H atoms is treated by Draine & Li (2001) as having 5 different types of vibration: (1) (NC - 2) out-of-plane C-C modes at CC,op-1 = kB op / hc (16.7 µm)-1 600 cm-1 given by a two-dimensional Debye model with a Debye temperature op 950 K, where kB is the Boltzmann constant, (2) 2(NC - 2) in-plane C-C modes at CC,ip-1 = kB ip / hc (5.7 µm)-1 1740 cm-1 given by a two-dimensional Debye model with a Debye temperature ip 2500 K, (3) NH out-of-plane C-H bending modes at CH,op-1 = (11.3 µm)-1 886 cm-1, (4) NH in-plane C-H bending modes at CH,ip-1 = (8.6 µm)-1 1161 cm-1, and (5) NH C-H stretching modes at CH,str-1 = (3.3 µm)-1 3030 cm-1. The "synthetic" mode spectrum for C24H12 is in excellent agreement with the actual mode spectrum of coronene (see Fig. 1 of Draine & Li 2001). Similarly, a silicate grain containing Na atoms is treated as having 2 (Na - 2) vibrational modes distributed according to a two-dimensional Debye model with a Debye temperature = 500 K, and (Na - 2) modes described by a three-dimensional Debye model with = 1500 K.

From the "synthetic" model mode spectrum we can obtain the vibrational density of states and hence the "degeneracy" gj, the number of distinct quantum states included in bin j. We note that the densities of states computed for C24H12, using both the actual normal mode spectrum for coronene and the model normal mode spectrum for C24H12 (see Fig. 1 of Draine & Li 2001) are essentially identical for E/hc 300 cm-1 (see Fig. 4 of Draine & Li 2001). With gj derived from the model mode spectrum, and the j i (j < i) excitation rates Tij calculated from a known radiation field with energy density uE, we can determine the i j (i > j) de-excitation transition rates Tji. Solving the steady-state state probability evolution equation ji TijPj = ji Tji Pi for i = 0, 1,..., M, we are able to obtain the steady-state energy probability distribution Pj and calculate the resulting IR emission spectrum.

 Figure 4. The cumulative energy probability distributions for PAHs illuminated by the general ISRF computed using the exact-statistical model, the thermal-discrete model, and the thermal-continuous model. Note that the lowest energy state (E = 0), not shown here, has P(E 0) = 1. Taken from Draine & Li (2001).

In Figure 4 we present the cumulative energy probability distributions for selected PAHs excited by the general solar neighbourhood interstellar starlight radiation field (ISRF) of Mathis, Mezger & Panagia (1983, hereafter MMP) obtained from the "exact-statistical" model. It is seen in Figure 4 that the probability of being in the ground state is very large for small grains: for example, for the MMP radiation field, grains with NC 4000 spend most of their time at E = 0. The sharp drop at 13.6eV (E / hc 1.1 × 105cm-1) is due to the radiation field cutoff at 912Å and to the fact that multiphoton events are rare. The resulting IR emission spectra are displayed in Figure 5. The sawtooth features seen at long wavelengths are due to our treatment of transitions from the lower excited energy bins to the ground state and first few excited states (see Section 5.1 and Appendix B of Draine & Li 2001).

 Figure 5. IR emissivities (per C atom) for selected ionized PAHs in the general ISRF calculated using the exact-statistical and thermal-discrete models. Taken from Draine & Li (2001).