Space Science Reviews

, Volume 157, Issue 1–4, pp 57–91 | Cite as

Charge Transfer Reactions

  • Konrad DennerlEmail author
Open Access


Charge transfer, or charge exchange, describes a process in which an ion takes one or more electrons from another atom. Investigations of this fundamental process have accompanied atomic physics from its very beginning, and have been extended to astrophysical scenarios already many decades ago. Yet one important aspect of this process, i.e. its high efficiency in generating X-rays, was only revealed in 1996, when comets were discovered as a new class of X-ray sources. This finding has opened up an entirely new field of X-ray studies, with great impact due to the richness of the underlying atomic physics, as the X-rays are not generated by hot electrons, but by ions picking up electrons from cold gas. While comets still represent the best astrophysical laboratory for investigating the physics of charge transfer, various studies have already spotted a variety of other astrophysical locations, within and beyond our solar system, where X-rays may be generated by this process. They range from planetary atmospheres, the heliosphere, the interstellar medium and stars to galaxies and clusters of galaxies, where charge transfer may even be observationally linked to dark matter. This review attempts to put the various aspects of the study of charge transfer reactions into a broader historical context, with special emphasis on X-ray astrophysics, where the discovery of cometary X-ray emission may have stimulated a novel look at our universe.


Charge transfer Charge exchange Atomic physics X-rays Ions Energetic neutral atoms Nuclear fusion X-ray astronomy History Solar wind Comets Moon Planets Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Heliosphere X-ray background Local bubble Interstellar medium North polar spur Supernova remnants Stars Galaxies Clusters of galaxies Dark matter Rosat EUVE BeppoSAX Chandra XMM-Newton Suzaku ASTRO-H IXO 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische PhysikGarchingGermany

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