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Title: Plasmoid instability in high-Lundquist-number magnetic reconnection

Abstract

Our understanding of magnetic reconnection in resistive magnetohydrodynamics has gone through a fundamental change in recent years. The conventional wisdom is that magnetic reconnection mediated by resistivity is slow in laminar high Lundquist (S) plasmas, constrained by the scaling of the reconnection rate predicted by Sweet-Parker theory. However, recent studies have shown that when S exceeds a critical value ~104, the Sweet-Parker current sheet is unstable to a super-Alfvénic plasmoid instability, with a linear growth rate that scales as S1/4. In the fully developed statistical steady state of two-dimensional resistive magnetohydrodynamic simulations, the normalized average reconnection rate is approximately 0.01, nearly independent of S, and the distribution function f(ψ) of plasmoid magnetic flux ψ follows a power law f(ψ)~ψ-1. When Hall effects are included, the plasmoid instability may trigger onset of Hall reconnection even when the conventional criterion for onset is not satisfied. The rich variety of possible reconnection dynamics is organized in the framework of a phase diagram.

Authors:
 [1];  [2]
  1. Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham, NH (United States)
  2. Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham, NH (United States); Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. (PPPL), Princeton, NJ (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham, NH (United States); Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1565005
Grant/Contract Number:  
FG02-07ER46372
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Physics of Plasmas
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 20; Journal Issue: 5; Journal ID: ISSN 1070-664X
Publisher:
American Institute of Physics (AIP)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY; Physics

Citation Formats

Huang, Yi-Min, and Bhattacharjee, A. Plasmoid instability in high-Lundquist-number magnetic reconnection. United States: N. p., 2013. Web. doi:10.1063/1.4802941.
Huang, Yi-Min, & Bhattacharjee, A. Plasmoid instability in high-Lundquist-number magnetic reconnection. United States. doi:10.1063/1.4802941.
Huang, Yi-Min, and Bhattacharjee, A. Mon . "Plasmoid instability in high-Lundquist-number magnetic reconnection". United States. doi:10.1063/1.4802941. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1565005.
@article{osti_1565005,
title = {Plasmoid instability in high-Lundquist-number magnetic reconnection},
author = {Huang, Yi-Min and Bhattacharjee, A.},
abstractNote = {Our understanding of magnetic reconnection in resistive magnetohydrodynamics has gone through a fundamental change in recent years. The conventional wisdom is that magnetic reconnection mediated by resistivity is slow in laminar high Lundquist (S) plasmas, constrained by the scaling of the reconnection rate predicted by Sweet-Parker theory. However, recent studies have shown that when S exceeds a critical value ~104, the Sweet-Parker current sheet is unstable to a super-Alfvénic plasmoid instability, with a linear growth rate that scales as S1/4. In the fully developed statistical steady state of two-dimensional resistive magnetohydrodynamic simulations, the normalized average reconnection rate is approximately 0.01, nearly independent of S, and the distribution function f(ψ) of plasmoid magnetic flux ψ follows a power law f(ψ)~ψ-1. When Hall effects are included, the plasmoid instability may trigger onset of Hall reconnection even when the conventional criterion for onset is not satisfied. The rich variety of possible reconnection dynamics is organized in the framework of a phase diagram.},
doi = {10.1063/1.4802941},
journal = {Physics of Plasmas},
number = 5,
volume = 20,
place = {United States},
year = {2013},
month = {4}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
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Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 46 works
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Figures / Tables:

FIG. 1 FIG. 1: Out-of-plane current density at different times shows fractal-like cascade to smaller scales via the plasmoid instability. First, the SweetParker current sheet breaks up to form a chain of plasmoids connected by secondary current sheets (top panel). Secondary current sheets are SweetParker like, become unstable again, and generate themore » next batch of plasmoids (middle panel). This cascade leads to a hierarchy of plasmoids of various sizes (bottom panel). These snapshots present a small portion of the whole simulation box from a $S$ = 107 simulation. The reader is referred to Fig. 4 of Ref. 28 for an illustration of the whole system.« less

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