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Title: Multiple-Scale Physics During Magnetic Reconnection
Authors: Jara-Almonte, Jonathan
Advisors: Ji, Hantao
Yamada, Masaaki
Contributors: Astrophysical Sciences—Plasma Physics Program
Keywords: Magnetic Reconnection
Plasmoid Instability
Subjects: Plasma physics
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Magnetic reconnection is a key fundamental process in magnetized plasmas wherein the global magnetic topology is modified and stored energy is transferred from fields to particles. Reconnection is an inherently local process, and mechanisms to couple global-scale dynamics are not well understood. This dissertation explores two different mechanisms for cross-scale coupling during magnetic reconnection. As one example, we theoretically examine reconnection in a collisionless plasma using particle-in-cell simulations and demonstrate that large scale reconnection physics can couple to and drive microscopic instabilities, even in two-dimensional systems if significant scale separation exists between the Debye length and the electron skin depth. The physics underlying these instabilities is explained using simple theoretical models, and their potential connection to existing discrepancies between laboratory experiments and numerical simulations is explored. In three-dimensional systems, these instabilities are shown to generate anomalous resistivity that balances a substantial fraction of the electric field. In contrast, we also use experiments to investigate cross-scale couplings during reconnection in a collisional plasma. A leading candidate for coupling global and local scales is the hierarchical breakdown of elongated, reconnecting current sheets into numerous smaller current sheets -– the plasmoid instability. In the Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX), recent hardware improvements have extended the accessible parameter space allowing for the study of long-lived, elongated current sheets. Moreover, by using Argon, reproducible and collisional plasmas are produced, which allow for a detailed statistical study of collisional reconnection. As a result, we have conclusively measured the onset of sub-ion-scale plasmoids during resistive, anti-parallel reconnection for the first time. The current sheet thickness is intermediate between ion and electron kinetic scales such that the plasma is in the Hall-MHD regime. Surprisingly, plasmoids are observed at Lundquist numbers < 100 well below theoretical predictions (> 10,000). The number of plasmoids scales with both Lundquist number and current sheet aspect ratio. The Hall quadrupolar fields are shown to suppress plasmoids. Finally, plasmoids are shown to couple local and global physics by enhancing the reconnection rate. These results are compared with prior studies of tearing and plasmoid instability, and implications for astrophysical plasmas, laboratory experiments, and theoretical studies of reconnection are discussed.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Plasma Physics

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