Application of the disk evaporation model to active galactic nuclei

B. F. Liu, Ronald E. Taam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The disk corona evaporation model extensively developed for the interpretation of observational features of black hole X-ray binaries (BHXRBs) is applied to active galactic nuclei (AGNs). Since the evaporation of gas in the disk can lead to its truncation for accretion rates less than a maximal evaporation rate, the model can naturally account for the soft spectrum in high-luminosity AGNs and the hard spectrum in low-luminosity AGNs. The existence of two different luminosity levels describing transitions from the soft to hard state and from the hard to soft state in BHXRBs, when applied to AGNs, suggests that AGNs can be in either spectral state within a range of luminosities. For example, at a viscosity parameter, α, equal to 0.3, the Eddington ratio from the hard-to-soft transition and from the soft-to-hard transition occurs at 0.027 and 0.005, respectively. The differing Eddington ratios result from the importance of Compton cooling in the latter transition, in which the cooling associated with soft photons emitted by the optically thick inner disk in the soft spectral state inhibits evaporation. When the Eddington ratio of the AGN lies below the critical value corresponding to its evolutionary state, the disk is truncated. With decreasing Eddington ratios, the inner edge of the disk increases to greater distances from the black hole with a concomitant increase in the inner radius of the broad-line region, R BLR. The absence of an optically thick inner disk at low luminosities (L) gives rise to region in the R BLR-L plane for which the relation R BLR ∝ L 1/2 inferred at high luminosities is excluded. As a result, a lower limit to the accretion rate is predicted for the observability of broad emission lines, if the broad-line region is associated with an optically thick accretion disk. Thus, true Seyfert 2 galaxies may exist at very low accretion rates/luminosities. The differences between BHXRBs and AGNs in the framework of the disk corona model are discussed, and possible modifications to the model are briefly suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-242
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Black hole physics
  • Galaxies: active
  • X-rays: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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