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Zanella, A.; Daddi, E.; Magdis, G.; Diaz Santos, T.; Cormier, D.; Liu, D.; Cibinel, A.; Gobat, R.; Dickinson, M.; Sargent, M.; Popping, G.; Madden, S. C.; Bethermin, M.; Hughes, T. M.; Valentino, F.; Rujopakarn, W.; Pannella, M.; Bournaud, F.; Walter, E.; Wang, T.; Elbaz, D.; Coogan, R. T. (2018): The [C II] emission as a molecular gas mass tracer in galaxies at low and high redshifts. In: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 481, No. 2: pp. 1976-1999
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We present ALMA Band 9 observations of the [C II]158 mu m emission for a sample of 10 main-sequence galaxies at redshift z similar to 2, with typical stellar masses (log M-*/M-circle dot similar to 10.0-10.9) and star formation rates (similar to 35-115 M-circle dot yr (-1) ). Given the strong and well-understood evolution of the interstellar medium from the present to z = 2, we investigate the behaviour of the [C II] emission and empirically identify its primary driver. We detect [C II] from six galaxies (four secure and two tentative) and estimate ensemble averages including non-detections. The [C II]-to-infrared luminosity ratio (L-[C II]/L-IR) of our sample is similar to that of local main-sequence galaxies (similar to 2 x 10(-3) ), and similar to 10 times higher than that of starbursts. The [C II] emission has an average spatial extent of 4-7 kpc, consistent with the optical size. Complementing our sample with literature data, we find that the [C II] luminosity correlates with galaxies' molecular gas mass, with a mean absolute deviation of 0.2 dex and without evident systematics: the [C II] to-H-2 conversion factor (alpha([C II]) similar to 30 M-circle dot/L-circle dot) is largely independent of galaxies' depletion time, metallicity, and redshift. [C II] seems therefore a convenient tracer to estimate galaxies' molecular gas content regardless of their starburst or main-sequence nature, and extending to metal-poor galaxies at low and high redshifts. The dearth of [C II] emission reported for z > 6-7 galaxies might suggest either a high star formation efficiency or a small fraction of ultraviolet light from star formation reprocessed by dust.