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  1. Magnetic reconnection is an important process in astrophysical environments, as it reconfigures magnetic field topology and converts magnetic energy into thermal and kinetic energy. In extreme astrophysical systems, such as black hole coronae and pulsar magnetospheres, radiative cooling modifies the energy partition by radiating away internal energy, which can lead to the radiative collapse of the reconnection layer. In this paper, we perform two- and three-dimensional simulations to model the MARZ (Magnetic Reconnection on Z) experiments, which are designed to access cooling rates in the laboratory necessary to investigate reconnection in a previously unexplored radiatively cooled regime. These simulations are performed in GORGON, an Eulerian two-temperature resistive magnetohydrodynamic code, which models the experimental geometry comprising two exploding wire arrays driven by 20 MA of current on the Z machine (Sandia National Laboratories). Radiative losses are implemented using non-local thermodynamic equilibrium tables computed using the atomic code Spk, and we probe the effects of radiation transport by implementing both a local radiation loss model and$P_{1/3}$multi-group radiation transport. The load produces highly collisional, super-Alfvénic (Alfvén Mach number$M_A \approx 1.5$), supersonic (Sonic Mach number$M_S \approx 4-5$) strongly driven plasma flows which generate an elongated reconnection layer (Aspect Ratio$L/\delta \approx 100$, Lundquist number$S_L \approx 400$). The reconnection layer undergoes radiative collapse when the radiative losses exceed the rates of ohmic and compressional heating (cooling rate/hydrodynamic transit rate =$\tau _{\text {cool}}^{-1}/\tau _{H}^{-1}\approx 100$); this generates a cold strongly compressed current sheet, leading to an accelerated reconnection rate, consistent with theoretical predictions. Finally, the current sheet is also unstable to the plasmoid instability, but the magnetic islands are extinguished by strong radiative cooling before ejection from the layer.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2025
  2. ABSTRACT

    The magnetorotational instability (MRI) has been proposed as the method of angular momentum transport that enables accretion in astrophysical discs. However, for weakly ionized discs, such as protoplanetary discs, it remains unclear whether the combined non-ideal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) effects of Ohmic resistivity, ambipolar diffusion, and the Hall effect make these discs MRI stable. While much effort has been made to simulate non-ideal MHD MRI, these simulations make simplifying assumptions and are not always in agreement with each other. Furthermore, it is difficult to directly observe the MRI astrophysically because it occurs on small scales. Here, we propose the concept of a swirling gas experiment of weakly ionized argon gas between two concentric cylinders threaded with an axial magnetic field that can be used to study non-ideal MHD MRI. For our proposed experiment, we derive the hydrodynamic equilibrium flow and a dispersion relation for MRI that includes the three non-ideal effects. We solve this dispersion relation numerically for the parameters of our proposed experiment. We find it should be possible to produce a non-ideal MRI in such an experiment because of the Hall effect, which increases the MRI growth rate when the vertical magnetic field is anti-aligned with the rotation axis. As a proof of concept, we also present experimental results for a hydrodynamic flow in an unmagnetized prototype. We find that our prototype has a small, but non-negligible, α-parameter that could serve as a baseline for comparison to our proposed magnetized experiment, which could be subject to additional turbulence from the MRI.

     
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  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  4. Abstract

    The standard magnetorotational instability (SMRI) is a promising mechanism for turbulence and rapid accretion in astrophysical disks. It is a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) instability that destabilizes otherwise hydrodynamically stable disk flow. Due to its microscopic nature at astronomical distances and stringent requirements in laboratory experiments, SMRI has remained unconfirmed since its proposal, despite its astrophysical importance. Here we report a nonaxisymmetric MHD instability in a modified Taylor-Couette experiment. To search for SMRI, a uniform magnetic field is imposed along the rotation axis of a swirling liquid-metal flow. The instability initially grows exponentially, becoming prominent only for sufficient flow shear and moderate magnetic field. These conditions for instability are qualitatively consistent with SMRI, but at magnetic Reynolds numbers below the predictions of linear analyses with periodic axial boundaries. Three-dimensional numerical simulations, however, reproduce the observed instability, indicating that it grows linearly from the primary axisymmetric flow modified by the applied magnetic field.

     
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  5. Abstract

    The magnetorotational instability (MRI) has long been considered a plausibly ubiquitous mechanism to destabilize otherwise stable Keplerian flows to support radially outward transport of angular momentum. Such an efficient transport process would allow fast accretion in astrophysical objects such as stars and black holes to release copious kinetic energy that powers many of the most luminous sources in the universe. But the standard MRI under a purely vertical magnetic field has heretofore never been directly measured despite numerous efforts over more than a decade. Here we report an unambiguous laboratory demonstration of the spring-mass analogue to the standard MRI by comparing motion of a spring-tethered ball within different rotating flows. The experiment corroborates the theory: efficient outward angular momentum transport manifests only for cases with a weak spring in quasi-Keperian flow. Our experimental method accomplishes this in a new way, thereby connecting solid and fluid mechanics to plasma astrophysics.

     
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