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  1. 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.

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    We investigate the spectral properties of the electromagnetic fluctuations of sub-ion scale turbulence in weakly collisional, low-beta plasmas using a two-field isothermal gyrofluid model. The numerical results strongly support a description of the turbulence as a critically balanced Kolmogorov-like cascade of kinetic Alfvén wave fluctuations, as amended by previous studies to include intermittency effects. The measured universal index of the energy spectra from systems with different flux-unfreezing mechanisms excludes the role of tearing mediation in determining the spectra. The fluctuations remain isotropic in the plane perpendicular to the strong background magnetic fields as they cascade to smaller scales, which explains the absence of tearing mediation. The calculation of high-order, multipoint structure functions of magnetic fluctuations suggests that the intermittent structures have a quasi-2D, sheet-type morphology. These results are useful for explaining recent observations of the spectrum and structure of magnetic and density fluctuations in the solar wind at sub-proton scales, and are relevant for modelling the energy dissipation in a broad range of astrophysical systems.

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  3. We report analytical and numerical investigations of subion-scale turbulence in low-beta plasmas using a rigorous reduced kinetic model. We show that efficient electron heating occurs and is primarily due to Landau damping of kinetic Alfvén waves, as opposed to Ohmic dissipation. This collisionless damping is facilitated by the local weakening of advective nonlinearities and the ensuing unimpeded phase mixing near intermittent current sheets, where free energy concentrates. The linearly damped energy of electromagnetic fluctuations at each scale explains the steepening of their energy spectrum with respect to a fluid model where such damping is excluded (i.e., a model that imposes an isothermal electron closure). The use of a Hermite polynomial representation to express the velocity-space dependence of the electron distribution function enables us to obtain an analytical, lowest-order solution for the Hermite moments of the distribution, which is borne out by numerical simulations. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 6, 2024
  4. 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. 
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  5. The physical picture of interacting magnetic islands provides a useful paradigm for certain plasma dynamics in a variety of physical environments, such as the solar corona, the heliosheath and the Earth's magnetosphere. In this work, we derive an island kinetic equation to describe the evolution of the island distribution function (in area and in flux of islands) subject to a collisional integral designed to account for the role of magnetic reconnection during island mergers. This equation is used to study the inverse transfer of magnetic energy through the coalescence of magnetic islands in two dimensions. We solve our island kinetic equation numerically for three different types of initial distribution: Dirac delta, Gaussian and power-law distributions. The time evolution of several key quantities is found to agree well with our analytical predictions: magnetic energy decays as $\tilde {t}^{-1}$ , the number of islands decreases as $\tilde {t}^{-1}$ and the averaged area of islands grows as $\tilde {t}$ , where $\tilde {t}$ is the time normalised to the characteristic reconnection time scale of islands. General properties of the distribution function and the magnetic energy spectrum are also studied. Finally, we discuss the underlying connection of our island-merger models to the (self-similar) decay of magnetohydrodynamic turbulence. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Recent in situ measurements by the MMS and Parker Solar Probe missions bring interest to small-scale plasma dynamics (waves, turbulence, magnetic reconnection) in regions where the electron thermal energy is smaller than the magnetic one. Examples of such regions are the Earth’s magnetosheath and the vicinity of the solar corona, and they are also encountered in other astrophysical systems. In this brief review, we consider simple physical models describing plasma dynamics in such low-electron-beta regimes, discuss their conservation laws and their limits of applicability. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    Nonlinear differential equations model diverse phenomena but are notoriously difficult to solve. While there has been extensive previous work on efficient quantum algorithms for linear differential equations, the linearity of quantum mechanics has limited analogous progress for the nonlinear case. Despite this obstacle, we develop a quantum algorithm for dissipative quadratic n-dimensional ordinary differential equations. Assuming R < 1 , where R is a parameter characterizing the ratio of the nonlinearity and forcing to the linear dissipation, this algorithm has complexity T 2 q   poly ( log ⁡ T , log ⁡ n , log ⁡ 1 / ϵ ) / ϵ , where T is the evolution time, ϵ is the allowed error, and q measures decay of the solution. This is an exponential improvement over the best previous quantum algorithms, whose complexity is exponential in T. While exponential decay precludes efficiency, driven equations can avoid this issue despite the presence of dissipation. Our algorithm uses the method of Carleman linearization, for which we give a convergence theorem. This method maps a system of nonlinear differential equations to an infinite-dimensional system of linear differential equations, which we discretize, truncate, and solve using the forward Euler method and the quantum linear system algorithm. We also provide a lower bound on the worst-case complexity of quantum algorithms for general quadratic differential equations, showing that the problem is intractable for R ≥ 2 . Finally, we discuss potential applications, showing that the R < 1 condition can be satisfied in realistic epidemiological models and giving numerical evidence that the method may describe a model of fluid dynamics even for larger values of R. 
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  8. null (Ed.)
  9. null (Ed.)
    Quasi-periodic plasmoid formation at the tip of magnetic streamer structures is observed to occur in experiments on the Big Red Ball as well as in simulations of these experiments performed with the extended magnetohydrodynamics code, NIMROD. This plasmoid formation is found to occur on a characteristic time scale dependent on pressure gradients and magnetic curvature in both experiment and simulation. Single mode, or laminar, plasmoids exist when the pressure gradient is modest, but give way to turbulent plasmoid ejection when the system drive is higher, which produces plasmoids of many sizes. However, a critical pressure gradient is also observed, below which plasmoids are never formed. A simple heuristic model of this plasmoid formation process is presented and suggested to be a consequence of a dynamic loss of equilibrium in the high- $\beta$ region of the helmet streamer. This model is capable of explaining the periodicity of plasmoids observed in the experiment and simulations, and produces plasmoid periods of 90 minutes when applied to two-dimensional models of solar streamers with a height of $3R_\odot$ . This is consistent with the location and frequency at which periodic plasma blobs have been observed to form by Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronograph and Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation instruments. 
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