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Using infrared photometry from the Spitzer Space Telescope, we perform the first inventory of aromatic feature emission (also commonly referred to as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon emission) for a statistically complete sample of star-forming galaxies in the local volume. The photometric methodology involved is calibrated and demonstrated to recover the aromatic fraction of the Infrared Array Camera 8 μm flux with a standard deviation of 6% for a training set of 40 SINGS galaxies (ranging from stellar to dust dominated) with both suitable mid-infrared Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph spectra and equivalent photometry. A potential factor of 2 improvement could be realized with suitable 5.5 μm and 10 μm photometry, such as what may be provided in the future by the James Webb Space Telescope. The resulting technique is then applied to mid-infrared photometry for the 258 galaxies from the Local Volume Legacy (LVL) survey, a large sample dominated in number by low-luminosity dwarf galaxies for which obtaining comparable mid-infrared spectroscopy is not feasible. We find the total LVL luminosity due to five strong aromatic features in the 8 μm complex to be 2.47 × 1010 L with a mean volume density of 8.8 × 106 L Mpc–3. Twenty-four of the LVL galaxies, corresponding to a luminosity cut at MB = –18.22, account for 90% of the aromatic luminosity. Using oxygen abundances compiled from the literature for 129 of the 258 LVL galaxies, we find a correlation between metallicity and the aromatic-to-total infrared emission ratio but not the aromatic-to-total 8 μm dust emission ratio. A possible explanation is that metallicity plays a role in the abundance of aromatic molecules relative to the total dust content, but other factors, such as star formation and/or the local radiation field, affect the excitation of those molecules.


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