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Title: Observation of magnetic field generation via the Weibel instability in interpenetrating plasma flows

Collisionless shocks can be produced as a result of strong magnetic fields in a plasma flow, and therefore are common in many astrophysical systems. The Weibel instability is one candidate mechanism for the generation of su fficiently strong fields to create a collisionless shock. Despite their crucial role in astrophysical systems, observation of the magnetic fields produced by Weibel instabilities in experiments has been challenging. Using a proton probe to directly image electromagnetic fields, we present evidence of Weibel-generated magnetic fields that grow in opposing, initially unmagnetized plasma flows from laser-driven laboratory experiments. Three-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations reveal that the instability effi ciently extracts energy from the plasma flows, and that the self-generated magnetic energy reaches a few percent of the total energy in the system. Furthermore, this result demonstrates an experimental platform suitable for the investigation of a wide range of astrophysical phenomena, including collisionless shock formation in supernova remnants, large-scale magnetic field amplification, and the radiation signature from gamma-ray bursts.
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  1. Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
  2. MIT (Massachusetts Inst. of Technology), Cambridge, MA (United States)
  3. Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI (United States). Dept. of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences
  4. Univ. of Rochester, NY (United States). Physics Dept. and Lab. for Laser Energetics
  5. Univ. of Oxford (United Kingdom). Dept. of Physics
  6. Lam Research Corp., Fremont, CA (United States)
  7. Osaka Univ. (Japan). Inst. of Laser Engineering
  8. Princeton Univ., NJ (United States). Dept. of Astrophysical Sciences
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
DOE Contract Number:
NA0001857; NA0002035
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Nature Physics; Journal Volume: 11; Journal Issue: 2
Nature Publishing Group (NPG)
Research Org:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA (United States). High Energy Density Physics Div., Plasma Science and Fusion Center
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Country of Publication:
United States