Abstract Magnetic reconnection is invoked as one of the primary mechanisms to produce energetic particles. We employ large-scale 3D particle-in-cell simulations of reconnection in magnetically dominated ( σ = 10) pair plasmas to study the energization physics of high-energy particles. We identify an acceleration mechanism that only operates in 3D. For weak guide fields, 3D plasmoids/flux ropes extend along the z -direction of the electric current for a length comparable to their cross-sectional radius. Unlike in 2D simulations, where particles are buried in plasmoids, in 3D we find that a fraction of particles with γ ≳ 3 σ can escape from plasmoids by moving along z , and so they can experience the large-scale fields in the upstream region. These “free” particles preferentially move in z along Speiser-like orbits sampling both sides of the layer and are accelerated linearly in time—their Lorentz factor scales as γ ∝ t , in contrast to γ ∝ t in 2D. The energy gain rate approaches ∼ eE rec c , where E rec ≃ 0.1 B 0 is the reconnection electric field and B 0 the upstream magnetic field. The spectrum of free particles is hard, dN free / d γ ∝ γmore »
Faster form of electron magnetic reconnection with a finite length X-line
Observations in Earth’s turbulent magnetosheath downstream of a quasiparallel bow shock reveal a prevalence of electron-scale current sheets favorable for electron-only reconnection where ions are not coupled to the reconnecting magnetic fields. In small-scale turbulence, magnetic structures associated with intense current sheets are limited in all dimensions. And since the coupling of ions are constrained by a minimum length scale, the dynamics of electron reconnection is likely to be 3D. Here, both 2D and 3D kinetic particle-in-cell simulations are used to investigate electron-only reconnection, focusing on the reconnection rate and associated electron flows. A new form of 3D electron-only reconnection spontaneously develops where the magnetic X-line is localized in the out-of-plane (z) direction. The consequence is an enhancement of the reconnection rate compared with two dimensions, which results from differential mass flux out of the diffusion region along z, enabling a faster inflow velocity and thus a larger reconnection rate. This outflow along z is due to the magnetic tension force in z just as the conventional exhaust tension force, allowing particles to leave the diffusion region efficiently along z unlike the 2D configuration.
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- Physical review letters
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- National Science Foundation
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