Merging binary black holes formed through chemically homogeneous evolution in short-period stellar binaries

Ilya Mandel, Selma E. De mink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

243 Citations (Scopus)


We explore a newly proposed channel to create binary black holes of stellar origin. This scenario applies to massive, tight binaries where mixing induced by rotation and tides transports the products of hydrogen burning throughout the stellar envelopes. This slowly enriches the entire star with helium, preventing the build-up of an internal chemical gradient. The stars remain compact as they evolve nearly chemically homogeneously, eventually forming two black holes, which we estimate typically merge 4–11 Gyr after formation. Like other proposed channels, this evolutionary pathway suffers from significant theoretical uncertainties, but could be constrained in the near future by data from advanced ground-based gravitational-wave detectors. We perform Monte Carlo simulations of the expected merger rate over cosmic time to explore the implications and uncertainties. Our default model for this channel yields a local binary black hole merger rate of about 10 Gpc−3 yr−1 at redshift z = 0, peaking at twice this rate at z = 0.5. This means that this channel is competitive, in terms of expected rates, with the conventional formation scenarios that involve a common-envelope phase during isolated binary evolution or dynamical interaction in a dense cluster. The events from this channel may be distinguished by the preference for nearly equal-mass components and high masses, with typical total masses between 50 and 110  M⊙. Unlike the conventional isolated binary evolution scenario that involves shrinkage of the orbit during a common-envelope phase, short time delays are unlikely for this channel, implying that we do not expect mergers at high redshift.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2634-2647
JournalRoyal Astronomical Society. Monthly Notices
Issue number3
Early online date17 Feb 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Feb 2016


  • gravitational waves
  • binaries: close
  • stars: black holes
  • stars: massive
  • stars: rotation


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