Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets

Radiolysis of water ice in the outer solar system: Sputtering and trapping of radiation products


  • D. A. Bahr,

  • M. Famá,

  • R. A. Vidal,

  • R. A. Baragiola


We performed quantitative laboratory radiolysis experiments on cubic water ice between 40 and 120 K, with 200 keV protons. We measured sputtering of atoms and molecules and the trapping of radiolytic molecular species. The experiments were done at fluences corresponding to exposure of the surface of the Jovian icy satellites to their radiation environment up to thousands of years. During irradiation, O2 molecules are ejected from the ice at a rate that grows roughly exponentially with temperature; this behavior is the main reason for the temperature dependence of the total sputtering yield. O2 trapped in the ice is thermally released from the ice upon warming; the desorbed flux starts at the irradiation temperature and increases strongly above 120 K. Several peaks in the desorption spectrum, which depend on irradiation temperature, point to a complex distribution of trapping sites in the ice matrix. The yield of O2 produced by the 200 keV protons and trapped in the ice is more than 2 orders of magnitude smaller than used in recent models of Ganymede. We also found small amounts of trapped H2O2 that desorb readily above 160 K.