Descriptors for binding energies at clusters: The case of nanosilicates as models of interstellar dust grains

Mie Andersen*, Andreas Møller Slavensky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Binding energies of radicals and molecules at dust grain surfaces are important parameters for understanding and modeling the chemical inventory of interstellar gas clouds. While first-principles methods can reliably be used to compute such binding energies, the complex structure and varying sizes and stoichiometries of realistic dust grains make a complete characterization of all adsorption sites exposed by their surfaces challenging. Here, we focus on nanoclusters composed of Mg-rich silicates as models of interstellar dust grains and two adsorbates of particular astrochemical relevance; H and CO. We employ a compressed sensing method to identify descriptors for the binding energies, which are expressed as analytical functions of intrinsic properties of the clusters, obtainable through a single first-principles calculation of the cluster. The descriptors are identified based on a diverse training dataset of binding energies at low-energy structures of nanosilicate clusters, where the latter structures were obtained using a first-principles-based global optimization method. The composition of the descriptors reveals how electronic, electrostatic, and geometric properties of the nanosilicates control the binding energies and demonstrates distinct physical origins of the bond formation for H and CO. The predictive performance of the descriptors is found to be limited by cluster reconstruction, e.g., breaking of internal metal-oxygen bonds, upon the adsorption event, and strategies to account for this phenomenon are discussed. The identified descriptors and the computed datasets of stable nanosilicate clusters along with their binding energies are expected to find use in astrochemical models of reaction networks occurring at silicate grain surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number044711
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


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