Rapid coagulation of porous dust aggregates outside the snow line: A pathway to successful icy planetesimal formation

Satoshi Okuzumi, Hidekazu Tanaka, Hiroshi Kobayashi, Koji Wada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

218 Citations (Scopus)


Rapid orbital drift of macroscopic dust particles is one of the major obstacles to planetesimal formation in protoplanetary disks. We re-examine this problem by considering the porosity evolution of dust aggregates. We apply a porosity model based on recent N-body simulations of aggregate collisions, which allows us to study the porosity change upon collision for a wide range of impact energies. As a first step, we neglect collisional fragmentation and instead focus on dust evolution outside the snow line, where the fragmentation has been suggested to be less significant than inside the snow line because of the high sticking efficiency of icy particles. We show that dust particles can evolve into highly porous aggregates (with internal densities of much less than 0.1 g cm-3) even if collisional compression is taken into account. We also show that the high porosity triggers significant acceleration in collisional growth. This acceleration is a natural consequence of the particles' aerodynamical properties at low Knudsen numbers, i.e., at particle radii larger than the mean free path of the gas molecules. Thanks to this rapid growth, the highly porous aggregates are found to overcome the radial drift barrier at orbital radii less than 10AU (assuming the minimum-mass solar nebula model). This suggests that, if collisional fragmentation is truly insignificant, formation of icy planetesimals is possible via direct collisional growth of submicron-sized icy particles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jun 20
Externally publishedYes


  • dust, extinction
  • planets and satellites: formation
  • protoplanetary disks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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