Journal Article

The enrichment of the intergalactic medium with adiabatic feedback – I. Metal cooling and metal diffusion

S. Shen, J. Wadsley and G. Stinson

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 407, issue 3, pages 1581-1596
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online September 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
The enrichment of the intergalactic medium with adiabatic feedback – I. Metal cooling and metal diffusion

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A study of metal enrichment of the intergalactic medium (IGM) using a series of smooth particle hydrodynamic (SPH) simulations is presented, employing models for metal cooling and the turbulent diffusion of metals and thermal energy. An adiabatic feedback mechanism was adopted where gas cooling was prevented on the time-scale of supernova bubble expansion to generate galactic winds without explicit wind particles. The simulations produced a cosmic star formation history (SFH) that is broadly consistent with observations until z∼ 0.5, and a steady evolution of the universal neutral hydrogen fraction () that compares reasonably well with observations. The evolution of the mass and metallicities in stars and various gas phases was investigated. At z= 0, about 40 per cent of the baryons are in the warm–hot intergalactic medium (WHIM), but most metals (80–90 per cent) are locked in stars. At higher redshifts the proportion of metals in the IGM is higher due to more efficient loss from galaxies. The results also indicate that IGM metals primarily reside in the WHIM throughout cosmic history, which differs from simulations with hydrodynamically decoupled explicit winds. The metallicity of the WHIM lies between 0.01 and 0.1 solar with a slight decrease at lower redshifts. The metallicity evolution of the gas inside galaxies is broadly consistent with observations, but the diffuse IGM is under enriched at z∼ 2.5.

Galactic winds most efficiently enrich the IGM for haloes in the intermediate mass range 1010–1011 M. At the low-mass end gas is prevented from accreting on to haloes and has very low metallicities. At the high-mass end, the fraction of halo baryons escaped as winds declines along with the decline of stellar mass fraction of the galaxies. This is likely because of the decrease in star formation activity and decrease in wind escape efficiency. Metals enhance cooling which allows WHIM gas to cool on to galaxies and increases star formation. Metal diffusion allows winds to mix prior to escape, decreasing the IGM metal content in favour of gas within galactic haloes and star-forming gas. Diffusion significantly increases the amount of gas with low metallicities and changes the density–metallicity relation.

Keywords: diffusion; hydrodynamics; methods: numerical; intergalactic medium; large-scale structure of Universe

Journal Article.  14499 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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