Helium diffusion during formation of the first galaxies
We investigate the possible impact of diffusion on the abundance of helium and other primordial elements during formation of the first structures in the early Universe. We consider the primary collapse of a perturbation and subsequent accretion of matter on to the virialized halo, restricting our consideration to haloes with masses considerably above the Jeans limit. We find that diffusion in the cold and nearly neutral primordial gas at the end of the Dark Ages could raise the abundance of primordial elements relative to hydrogen in the first virialized haloes: helium enrichment could reach δYp/Yp ˜ 10-4 in the first star-forming minihaloes of ˜105-106 M⊙. A moderate (to ˜100 K) preheating of the primordial gas at the beginning of cosmic reionization could increase this effect to δYp/Yp ˜ 3 × 10-4 for ˜106 M⊙ haloes. Even stronger abundance enhancements, δYp/Yp ˜ a few 10-3, may arise at much later, post-reionization epochs, z ˜ 2, in protogroups of galaxies (˜1013 M⊙) as a result of accretion of warm-hot intergalactic medium with T ˜ 106 K. The diffusion-induced abundance changes discussed, here, are small but comparable to the already achieved ˜0.1 per cent precision of cosmological predictions of the primordial He abundance. If direct helium abundance measurements (in particular, in low-metallicity H II regions in dwarf galaxies) achieve the same level of precision in the future, their comparison with the BBN predictions may require consideration of the effects discussed here.