Three-dimensional radiative transfer calculations of radiation feedback from massive black holes: Outflow of mass from the dusty "tORUS"

Nathaniel Roth, Daniel Kasen, Philip F. Hopkins, Eliot Quataert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Observational and theoretical arguments suggest that the momentum carried in mass outflows from active galactic nuclei (AGNs) can reach several times L/c, corresponding to outflow rates of hundreds of solar masses peryear. Radiation pressure on resonant absorption lines alone may not be sufficient to provide this momentum deposition, and the transfer of reprocessed IR radiation in dusty nuclear gas has been postulated to provide the extra enhancement. The efficacy of this mechanism, however, will be sensitive to multi-dimensional effects such as the tendency for the reprocessed radiation to preferentially escape along sightlines of lower column density. We use Monte Carlo radiative transfer calculations to determine the radiation force on dusty gas residing within approximately 30 parsecs from an accreting supermassive black hole. We calculate the net rate of momentum deposition in the surrounding gas and estimate the mass-loss rate in the resulting outflow as a function of solid angle for different black hole luminosities, sightline-averaged column densities, clumping parameters, and opening angles of the dusty gas. We find that these dust-driven winds carry momentum fluxes of 1-5times L/c and correspond to mass-loss rates of 10-100 M per year for a 108 M black hole radiating at or near its Eddington limit. These results help to explain the origin of high velocity molecular and atomic outflows in local ultraluminous infrared galaxies and can inform numerical simulations of galaxy evolution including AGN feedback.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • black hole physics
  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: kinematics and dynamics
  • galaxies: nuclei
  • quasars: general
  • radiative transfer


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