Accretion history of AGNs. III. Radiative efficiency and AGN contribution to reionization

Tonima Tasnim Ananna, C. Megan Urry, Ezequiel Treister, Ryan C. Hickox, Francesco Shankar, Claudio Ricci, Nico Cappelluti, Stefano Marchesi, Tracey Jane Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The cosmic history of supermassive black hole (SMBH) growth is important for understanding galaxy evolution, reionization, and the physics of accretion. Recent NuSTAR, Swift-BAT, and Chandra hard X-ray surveys have provided new constraints on the space density of heavily obscured active galactic nuclei (AGNs). Using the new X-ray luminosity function derived from these data, we here estimate the accretion efficiency of SMBHs and their contribution to reionization. We calculate the total ionizing radiation from AGNs as a function of redshift, based on the X radiation and distribution of obscuring column density, converted to ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths. Limiting the luminosity function to unobscured AGNs only, our results agree with current UV luminosity functions of unobscured AGNs. For realistic assumptions about the escape fraction, the contribution of all AGNs to cosmic reionization is ∼4 times lower than the galaxy contribution (23% at z ∼6). Our results also offer an observationally constrained prescription that can be used in simulations or models of galaxy evolution. To estimate the average efficiency with which SMBHs convert mass to light, we compare the total radiated energy, converted from X-ray light using a bolometric correction, with the most recent local black hole mass density. The most likely value, η ∼ 0.3-0.34, approaches the theoretical limit for a maximally rotating Kerr black hole, η = 0.42, implying that on average growing SMBHs are spinning rapidly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number85
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 10 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Accretion history of AGNs. III. Radiative efficiency and AGN contribution to reionization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this