skip to main content


Title: Magnetogenesis in a Collisionless Plasma: From Weibel Instability to Turbulent Dynamo
Abstract

We report on a first-principles numerical and theoretical study of plasma dynamo in a fully kinetic framework. By applying an external mechanical force to an initially unmagnetized plasma, we develop a self-consistent treatment of the generation of “seed” magnetic fields, the formation of turbulence, and the inductive amplification of fields by the fluctuation dynamo. Driven large-scale motions in an unmagnetized, weakly collisional plasma are subject to strong phase mixing, which leads to the development of thermal pressure anisotropy. This anisotropy triggers the Weibel instability, which produces filamentary “seed” magnetic fields on plasma-kinetic scales. The plasma is thereby magnetized, enabling efficient stretching and folding of the fields by the plasma motions and the development of Larmor-scale kinetic instabilities such as the firehose and mirror. The scattering of particles off the associated microscale magnetic fluctuations provides an effective viscosity, regulating the field morphology and turbulence. During this process, the seed field is further amplified by the fluctuation dynamo until energy equipartition with the turbulent flow is reached. By demonstrating that equipartition magnetic fields can be generated from an initially unmagnetized plasma through large-scale turbulent flows, this work has important implications for the origin and amplification of magnetic fields in the intracluster and intergalactic mediums.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10480809
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Volume:
960
Issue:
1
ISSN:
0004-637X
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: Article No. 12
Size(s):
["Article No. 12"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    Understanding magnetic-field generation and amplification in turbulent plasma is essential to account for observations of magnetic fields in the universe. A theoretical framework attributing the origin and sustainment of these fields to the so-called fluctuation dynamo was recently validated by experiments on laser facilities in low-magnetic-Prandtl-number plasmas ( P m < 1 ). However, the same framework proposes that the fluctuation dynamo should operate differently when P m ≳ 1 , the regime relevant to many astrophysical environments such as the intracluster medium of galaxy clusters. This paper reports an experiment that creates a laboratory P m ≳ 1 plasma dynamo. We provide a time-resolved characterization of the plasma’s evolution, measuring temperatures, densities, flow velocities, and magnetic fields, which allows us to explore various stages of the fluctuation dynamo’s operation on seed magnetic fields generated by the action of the Biermann-battery mechanism during the initial drive-laser target interaction. The magnetic energy in structures with characteristic scales close to the driving scale of the stochastic motions is found to increase by almost three orders of magnitude and saturate dynamically. It is shown that the initial growth of these fields occurs at a much greater rate than the turnover rate of the driving-scale stochastic motions. Our results point to the possibility that plasma turbulence produced by strong shear can generate fields more efficiently at the driving scale than anticipated by idealized magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) simulations of the nonhelical fluctuation dynamo; this finding could help explain the large-scale fields inferred from observations of astrophysical systems. 
    more » « less
  2. We study within a fully kinetic framework the generation of “seed” magnetic fields through the Weibel instability, driven in an initially unmagnetized plasma by a large-scale shear force. We develop an analytical model that describes the development of thermal pressure anisotropy via phase mixing, the ensuing exponential growth of magnetic fields in the linear Weibel stage, and the saturation of the Weibel instability when the seed magnetic fields become strong enough to instigate gyromotion of particles and thereby inhibit their free-streaming. The predicted scaling dependencies of the saturated fields on key parameters (e.g., ratio of system scale to electron skin depth and forcing amplitude) are confirmed by two-dimensional and three-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations of an electron–positron plasma. This work demonstrates the spontaneous magnetization of a collisionless plasma through large-scale motions as simple as a shear flow and therefore has important implications for magnetogenesis in dilute astrophysical systems. 
    more » « less
  3. ABSTRACT

    Large-scale magnetic fields in the nuclear regions of protogalaxies can promote the formation and early growth of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) by direct collapse and magnetically boosted accretion. Turbulence associated with gravitational infall and star formation can drive the rms field strength toward equipartition with the mean gas kinetic energy; this field has a generic tendency to self-organize into large coherent structures. If the poloidal component of the field (relative to the rotational axis of a star-forming disc) becomes organized on scales ≲r and attains an energy of order a few per cent of the turbulent energy in the disc, then dynamo effects are expected to generate magnetic torques capable of increasing the inflow speed and thickening the disc. The accretion flow can transport matter towards the centre of mass at a rate adequate to create and grow a massive direct-collapse black hole seed and fuel the subsequent AGN at a high rate, without becoming gravitationally unstable. Fragmentation and star formation are thus suppressed and do not necessarily deplete the mass supply for the accretion flow, in contrast to prevailing models for growing and fuelling SMBHs through disc accretion.

     
    more » « less
  4. ABSTRACT

    The intracluster medium of galaxy clusters is an extremely hot and diffuse, nearly collisionless plasma, which hosts dynamically important magnetic fields of ∼μG strength. Seed magnetic fields of much weaker strength of astrophysical or primordial origin can be present in the intracluster medium. In collisional plasmas, which can be approximated in the magnetohydrodynamical (MHD) limit, the turbulent dynamo mechanism can amplify weak seed fields to strong dynamical levels efficiently by converting turbulent kinetic energy into magnetic energy. However, the viability of this mechanism in weakly collisional or completely collisionless plasma is much less understood. In this study, we explore the properties of the collisionless turbulent dynamo using three-dimensional hybrid-kinetic particle-in-cell simulations. We explore the properties of the collisionless turbulent dynamo in the kinematic regime for different values of the magnetic Reynolds number, Rm, initial magnetic-to-kinetic energy ratio, (Emag/Ekin)i, and initial Larmor ratio, (rLarmor/Lbox)i, i.e. the ratio of the Larmor radius to the size of the turbulent system. We find that in the ‘un-magnetized’ regime, (rLarmor/Lbox)i > 1, the critical magnetic Reynolds number for the dynamo action Rmcrit ≈ 107 ± 3. In the ‘magnetized’ regime, (rLarmor/Lbox)i ≲ 1, we find a marginally higher Rmcrit = 124 ± 8. We find that the growth rate of the magnetic energy does not depend on the strength of the seed magnetic field when the initial magnetization is fixed. We also study the distribution and evolution of the pressure anisotropy in the collisionless plasma and compare our results with the MHD turbulent dynamo.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Magnetic fields grow quickly, even at early cosmological times, suggesting the action of a small-scale dynamo (SSD) in the interstellar medium (ISM) of galaxies. Many studies have focused on idealized, isotropic, homogeneous, turbulent driving of the SSD. Here we analyze more realistic simulations of supernova-driven turbulence to understand how it drives an SSD. We find that SSD growth rates are intermittently variable as a result of the evolving multiphase ISM structure. Rapid growth in the magnetic field typically occurs in hot gas, with the highest overall growth rates occurring when the fractional volume of hot gas is large. SSD growth rates correlate most strongly with vorticity and fluid Reynolds number, which also both correlate strongly with gas temperature. Rotational energy exceeds irrotational energy in all phases, but particularly in the hot phase while SSD growth is most rapid. Supernova rate does not significantly affect the ISM average kinetic energy density. Rather, higher temperatures associated with high supernova rates tend to increase SSD growth rates. SSD saturates with total magnetic energy density around 5% of equipartition to kinetic energy density, increasing slightly with magnetic Prandtl number. While magnetic energy density in the hot gas can exceed that of the other phases when SSD grows most rapidly, it saturates below 5% of equipartition with kinetic energy in the hot gas, while in the cold gas it attains 100%. Fast, intermittent growth of the magnetic field appears to be a characteristic behavior of supernova-driven, multiphase turbulence.

     
    more » « less