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How Much Graphene in Space?

  • Li, Qi
  • Li, Aigen
  • Jiang, B. W.
Publication Date
Sep 26, 2019
Submission Date
Sep 26, 2019
DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stz2740
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The possible presence of graphene in the interstellar medium (ISM) is examined by comparing the interstellar extinction curve with the ultraviolet absorption of graphene calculated from its dielectric functions experimentally obtained with the electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) method. Based on the absence in the interstellar extinction curve of the ~2755 Angstrom $\pi$--$\pi^{\ast}$ electronic interband transition of graphene, we place an upper limit of ~20ppm of C/H on the interstellar graphene abundance, exceeding the previous estimate by a factor of ~3 which made use of the dielectric functions measured with the spectroscopic ellipsometry (SE) method. Compared with the SE method which measures graphene in air (and hence its surface is contaminated) in a limited energy range of ~0.7--5 eV, the EELS probes a much wider energy range of ~0--50 eV and is free of contamination. The fact that the EELS dielectric functions are substantially smaller than that of SE naturally explains why a higher upper limit on the graphene abundance is derived with EELS. Inspired by the possible detection of C$_{24}$, a planar graphene sheet, in several Galactic and extragalactic planetary nebulae, we also examine the possible presence of C$_{24}$ in the diffuse ISM by comparing the model IR emission of C$_{24}$ with the observed IR emission of the Galactic cirrus and the diffuse ISM toward $l = 44^{o}20^\prime$ and $b=-0^{o}20^\prime$. An upper limit of ~20 ppm on C$_{24}$ is also derived from the absence of the characteristic vibrational bands of C$_{24}$ at ~6.6, 9.8 and 20 $\mu$m in the observed IR emission.

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