The seeds of planetesimals that formed in the gaseous protoplanetary disk (PPD) have many barriers to overcome in their growth from millimeter to meter-sized and larger bodies. Centimeter-sized aggregates are weakly bound and self-gravity is almost non-existent so surface forces play a critical role in holding small loosely-bound rubble-piles together. Their orbital motions and effects form disk processes impart relative velocities leading to collisions so understanding the macroscopic disk environment is also necessary. To this end we analyze the dynamics of particles in Saturn's F ring as an analogue to understanding the orbital evolution of proto-planetesimals embedded in a PPD. We also study how the mechanical, material, and collisional properties affect the dynamical accretion of cm-sized bodies. The collisional outcomes can be determined by a set of definable collision parameters, and experimental constraints on these parameters will improve formation models for planetesimals. We have carried out a series of microgravity laboratory collision experiments of small aggregates to determine under what conditions collisional growth can occur for protoplanetary aggregates. We measure coefficients of restitution, sticking and fragmentation thresholds, compressive strengths, and sticking probabilities for collision velocities of 1 - 200 cm/s, then compare the results of our experiments with results from a collisional N-body code that includes adhesion between particles. We find that cm-sized aggregates are very weakly bound and require high internal cohesion to avoid fragmentation in agreement with simulations. The threshold for sticking is found to be under 10 cm/s and the fragmentation threshold near 1 m/s. Quiescent regions in the mid-plane of the disk may cultivate abnormally low relative velocities permitting sticking to occur (~1 cm/s), however, without a well-defined path to formation it is difficult to determine whether collisional accretion as a mechanism can overcome low thresholds for sticking and fragmentation. We discuss this research's implications to both the meter-barrier and planetesimal formation.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Physics; Planetary Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Whizin, Akbar, "Dynamical Formation of Protoplanetesimals" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4929.