We have developed a general model for determining density-dependent effective dielectronic recombination (DR) rate coefficients in order to explore finite-density effects on the ionization balance of plasmas. Our model consists of multiplying by a suppression factor those highly-accurate total zero-density DR rate coefficients which have been produced from state-of-the-art theoretical calculations and which have been benchmarked by experiment. The suppression factor is based upon earlier detailed collision-radiative calculations which were made for a wide range of ions at various densities and temperatures, but used a simplified treatment of DR. A general suppression formula is then developed as a function of isoelectronic sequence, charge, density, and temperature. These density-dependent effective DR rate coefficients are then used in the plasma simulation code Cloudy to compute ionization balance curves for both collisionally ionized and photoionized plasmas at very low (ne = 1 cm–3) and finite (ne = 1010 cm–3) densities. We find that the denser case is significantly more ionized due to suppression of DR, warranting further studies of density effects on DR by detailed collisional-radiative calculations which utilize state-of-the-art partial DR rate coefficients. This is expected to impact the predictions of the ionization balance in denser cosmic gases such as those found in nova and supernova shells, accretion disks, and the broad emission line regions in active galactic nuclei.

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Published in The Astrophysical Journal, v. 768, no. 1, 82, p. 1-9.

© 2013. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.

The copyright holder has granted permission for posting the article here.

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D.N., T.W.G., and K.T.K. acknowledge support by NASA (NNX11AF32G). G.J.F. acknowledges support by NSF (1108928; and 1109061), NASA (10-ATP10-0053, 10-ADAP10-0073, and NNX12AH73G), and STScI (HST-AR-12125.01, GO-12560, and HST-GO-12309). N.R.B. acknowledges support by STFC (ST/J000892/1).

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