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Title: Multiple-Scale Physics During Magnetic Reconnection

Abstract

Magnetic reconnection is a key fundamental process in magnetized plasmas wherein the global magnetic topology is modified and stored energy is transferred from fields to particles. Reconnection is an inherently local process, and mechanisms to couple global-scale dynamics are not well understood. This dissertation explores two different mechanisms for cross-scale coupling during magnetic reconnection. As one example, we theoretically examine reconnection in a collisionless plasma using particle-in-cell simulations and demonstrate that large scale reconnection physics can couple to and drive microscopic instabilities, even in two-dimensional systems if significant scale separation exists between the Debye length and the electron skin depth. The physics underlying these instabilities is explained using simple theoretical models, and their potential connection to existing discrepancies between laboratory experiments and numerical simulations is explored. In three-dimensional systems, these instabilities are shown to generate anomalous resistivity that balances a substantial fraction of the electric field. In contrast, we also use experiments to investigate cross-scale couplings during reconnection in a collisional plasma. A leading candidate for coupling global and local scales is the hierarchical breakdown of elongated, reconnecting current sheets into numerous smaller current sheets -– the plasmoid instability. In the Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX), recent hardware improvements have extendedmore » the accessible parameter space allowing for the study of long-lived, elongated current sheets. Moreover, by using Argon, reproducible and collisional plasmas are produced, which allow for a detailed statistical study of collisional reconnection. As a result, we have conclusively measured the onset of sub-ion-scale plasmoids during resistive, anti-parallel reconnection for the first time. The current sheet thickness is intermediate between ion and electron kinetic scales such that the plasma is in the Hall-MHD regime. Surprisingly, plasmoids are observed at Lundquist numbers < 100 well below theoretical predictions (> 10,000). The number of plasmoids scales with both Lundquist number and current sheet aspect ratio. The Hall quadrupolar fields are shown to suppress plasmoids. Finally, plasmoids are shown to couple local and global physics by enhancing the reconnection rate. These results are compared with prior studies of tearing and plasmoid instability, and implications for astrophysical plasmas, laboratory experiments, and theoretical studies of reconnection are discussed.« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. (PPPL), Princeton, NJ (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. (PPPL), Princeton, NJ (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) (SC-24)
Contributing Org.:
Princeton University
OSTI Identifier:
1409082
DOE Contract Number:  
AC02-09CH11466
Resource Type:
Thesis/Dissertation
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY; Magnetic Reconnection; Plasmoid Instability

Citation Formats

Jara-Almonte, Jonathan. Multiple-Scale Physics During Magnetic Reconnection. United States: N. p., 2017. Web.
Jara-Almonte, Jonathan. Multiple-Scale Physics During Magnetic Reconnection. United States.
Jara-Almonte, Jonathan. Thu . "Multiple-Scale Physics During Magnetic Reconnection". United States. doi:.
@article{osti_1409082,
title = {Multiple-Scale Physics During Magnetic Reconnection},
author = {Jara-Almonte, Jonathan},
abstractNote = {Magnetic reconnection is a key fundamental process in magnetized plasmas wherein the global magnetic topology is modified and stored energy is transferred from fields to particles. Reconnection is an inherently local process, and mechanisms to couple global-scale dynamics are not well understood. This dissertation explores two different mechanisms for cross-scale coupling during magnetic reconnection. As one example, we theoretically examine reconnection in a collisionless plasma using particle-in-cell simulations and demonstrate that large scale reconnection physics can couple to and drive microscopic instabilities, even in two-dimensional systems if significant scale separation exists between the Debye length and the electron skin depth. The physics underlying these instabilities is explained using simple theoretical models, and their potential connection to existing discrepancies between laboratory experiments and numerical simulations is explored. In three-dimensional systems, these instabilities are shown to generate anomalous resistivity that balances a substantial fraction of the electric field. In contrast, we also use experiments to investigate cross-scale couplings during reconnection in a collisional plasma. A leading candidate for coupling global and local scales is the hierarchical breakdown of elongated, reconnecting current sheets into numerous smaller current sheets -– the plasmoid instability. In the Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX), recent hardware improvements have extended the accessible parameter space allowing for the study of long-lived, elongated current sheets. Moreover, by using Argon, reproducible and collisional plasmas are produced, which allow for a detailed statistical study of collisional reconnection. As a result, we have conclusively measured the onset of sub-ion-scale plasmoids during resistive, anti-parallel reconnection for the first time. The current sheet thickness is intermediate between ion and electron kinetic scales such that the plasma is in the Hall-MHD regime. Surprisingly, plasmoids are observed at Lundquist numbers < 100 well below theoretical predictions (> 10,000). The number of plasmoids scales with both Lundquist number and current sheet aspect ratio. The Hall quadrupolar fields are shown to suppress plasmoids. Finally, plasmoids are shown to couple local and global physics by enhancing the reconnection rate. These results are compared with prior studies of tearing and plasmoid instability, and implications for astrophysical plasmas, laboratory experiments, and theoretical studies of reconnection are discussed.},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Jun 01 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Thu Jun 01 00:00:00 EDT 2017}
}

Thesis/Dissertation:
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