Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso


  • William M. Irvine
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_1498-3


Sputtering is the process in which a solid surface, as of an interstellar dust grain, is eroded by the impact of atoms or ions from the gas phase. Chemical sputtering occurs when the impacting particle has relatively low kinetic energy, chemical bonds are formed between it and the surface, and desorption of a newly formed molecule incorporating surface atoms occurs. Physical sputtering occurs when the impacting particle simply knocks surface atoms into the gas; this process can involve either thermal motion for high temperature gas or nonthermal impact if a solid particle and the gas have high relative velocities. Sputtering of interstellar grains commonly occurs in shocks.

See Also


Kinetic Energy Bioorganic Chemistry Chemical Bond Solid Surface Solid Particle 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AstronomyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA