The impact of recombination energy on simulations of the common-envelope binary interaction

Thomas A. Reichardt, Orsola De Marco, Roberto Iaconi, Luke Chamandy, Daniel J. Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


During the common-envelope binary interaction, the expanding layers of the gaseous common envelope recombine and the resulting recombination energy has been suggested as a contributing factor to the ejection of the envelope. In this paper, we perform a comparative study between simulations with and without the inclusion of recombination energy. We use two distinct setups, comprising a 0.88- and 1.8-M giants, that have been studied before and can serve as benchmarks. In so doing, we conclude that (i) the final orbital separation is not affected by the choice of equation of state (EoS). In other words, simulations that unbind but a small fraction of the envelope result in similar final separations to those that, thanks to recombination energy, unbind a far larger fraction. (ii) The adoption of a tabulated EoS results in a much greater fraction of unbound envelope and we demonstrate the cause of this to be the release of recombination energy. (iii) The fraction of hydrogen recombination energy that is allowed to do work should be about half of that which our adiabatic simulations use. (iv) However, for the heavier star simulation, we conclude that it is helium and not hydrogen recombination energy that unbinds the gas and we determine that all helium recombination energy is thermalized in the envelope and does work. (v) The outer regions of the expanding common envelope are likely to see the formation of dust. This dust would promote additional unbinding and shaping of the ejected envelope into axisymmetric morphologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5333-5349
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 494, Issue 4, June 2020, Pages 5333–5349, Copyright 2020 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


  • hydrodynamics
  • methods: Numerical
  • stars: AGB and post-AGB
  • stars: Evolution


Dive into the research topics of 'The impact of recombination energy on simulations of the common-envelope binary interaction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this