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Title: Understanding the dynamics and energetics of magnetic reconnection in a laboratory plasma: Review of recent progress on selected fronts

Here, magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process at work in laboratory, space, and astrophysical plasmas, in which magnetic field lines change their topology and convert magnetic energy to plasma particles by acceleration and heating. One of the most important problems in reconnection research has been to understand why reconnection occurs so much faster than predicted by magnetohydrodynamics theory. Following the recent pedagogical review of this subject [Yamada et al., Rev. Mod. Phys. 82, 603 (2010)], this paper presents a review of more recent discoveries and findings in the research of fast magnetic reconnection in laboratory, space, and astrophysical plasmas. In spite of the huge difference in physical scales, we find remarkable commonality between the characteristics of the magnetic reconnection in laboratory and space plasmas. In this paper, we will focus especially on the energy flow, a key feature of the reconnection process. In particular, the experimental results on the energy conversion and partitioning in a laboratory reconnection layer [Yamada et al., Nat. Commun. 5, 4474 (2014)] are discussed and compared with quantitative estimates based on two-fluid analysis. In the Magnetic ReconnectionExperiment, we find that energy deposition to electrons is localized near the X-point and is mostly from the electric fieldmore » component perpendicular to the magnetic field. The mechanisms of ion acceleration and heating are also identified, and a systematic and quantitative study on the inventory of converted energy within a reconnection layer with a well-defined but variable boundary. The measured energy partition in a reconnection region of similar effective size (L ≈ 3 ion skin depths) of the Earth's magneto-tail [Eastwood et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 225001 (2013)] is notably consistent with our laboratory results. Finally, to study the global aspects of magnetic reconnection, we have carried out a laboratory experiment on the stability criteria for solar flare eruptions, including “storage and release” mechanisms of magnetic energy. We show that toroidalmagnetic flux generated by magnetic relaxation (reconnection) processes generates a new stabilizing force which prevents plasma eruption. This result has led us to discover a new stabilizing force for solar flares [Myers et al., Nature 528, 526 (2015)].« less
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  1. Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. (PPPL), Princeton, NJ (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 1070-664X; PHPAEN
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Physics of Plasmas
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 23; Journal Issue: 5; Conference: Note: Paper SR1 1, Bull. Am. Phys. Soc. 60, 302 (2015) Masaaki Yamada was Invited speaker. 2015 Recipient of the James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics at the American Physical Society March Meeting, San Antonio, TX (United States), 2-6 Mar 2015; Related Information: The digital data for original figures in this paper is available at; Journal ID: ISSN 1070-664X
American Institute of Physics (AIP)
Research Org:
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), Princeton, NJ (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY; 79 ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS magnetic reconnection; diffusion; magnetic fields; magnetohydrodynamics; toroidal plasma confinement