Influence of Coulomb collisions on the structure of reconnection layers

Daughton, W.; Roytershteyn, V.; Albright, B. J.; Karimabadi, H.; Yin, L.; Bowers, Kevin J.
July 2009
Physics of Plasmas;Jul2009, Vol. 16 Issue 7, p072117
Academic Journal
The influence of Coulomb collisions on the structure of reconnection layers is examined in neutral sheet geometry using fully kinetic simulations with a Monte Carlo treatment of the Fokker–Planck operator. The algorithm is first carefully benchmarked against key predictions from transport theory, including the parallel and perpendicular resistivities as well as the thermal force. The results demonstrate that the collisionality is accurately specified, thus allowing the initial Lundquist number to be chosen as desired. For modest Lundquist numbers S≲1000, the classic Sweet–Parker solution is recovered. Furthermore, a distinct transition to a faster kinetic regime is observed when the thickness of the resistive layer δSP falls below the ion inertial length di. For higher Lundquist numbers S≳1000, plasmoids (secondary islands) are observed within the elongated resistive layers. These plasmoids give rise to a measurable increase in the reconnection rate and for certain cases induce a transition to kinetic regimes sooner than expected from the δSP≈di condition. During this transition, the reconnection electric field exceeds the runaway limit, leading to electron scale current layers in which the nonideal electric field is supported predominantly by off-diagonal components in the electron pressure tensor, along with a residual contribution from electron-ion momentum exchange. These weakly collisional electron layers are also unstable to the formation of new plasmoids.


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