Energy release and transfer in guide field reconnection

Birn, J.; Hesse, M.
January 2010
Physics of Plasmas;Jan2010, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p012109
Academic Journal
Properties of energy release and transfer by magnetic reconnection in the presence of a guide field are investigated on the basis of 2.5-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) and particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations. Two initial configurations are considered: a plane current sheet with a uniform guide field of 80% of the reconnecting magnetic field component and a force-free current sheet in which the magnetic field strength is constant but the field direction rotates by 180° through the current sheet. The onset of reconnection is stimulated by localized, temporally limited compression. Both MHD and PIC simulations consistently show that the outgoing energy fluxes are dominated by (redirected) Poynting flux and enthalpy flux, whereas bulk kinetic energy flux and heat flux (in the PIC simulation) are small. The Poynting flux is mainly associated with the magnetic energy of the guide field which is carried from inflow to outflow without much alteration. The conversion of annihilated magnetic energy to enthalpy flux (that is, thermal energy) stems mainly from the fact that the outflow occurs into a closed field region governed by approximate force balance between Lorentz and pressure gradient forces. Therefore, the energy converted from magnetic to kinetic energy by Lorentz force acceleration becomes immediately transferred to thermal energy by the work done by the pressure gradient force. Strong similarities between late stages of MHD and PIC simulations result from the fact that conservation of mass and entropy content and footpoint displacement of magnetic flux tubes, imposed in MHD, are also approximately satisfied in the PIC simulations.


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