Three-Dimensional Turbulent Reconnection Induced by the Plasmoid Instability

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:35 AM
Amitava Bhattacharjee and Yi-Min Huang, Princeton University, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ, United States
It has been established that the Sweet-Parker current layer in high-Lundquist-number reconnection is unstable to the super-Alfvenic plasmoid instability. Past two-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic simulations have demonstrated that the plasmoid instability leads to a new regime in which the Sweet-Parker current layer evolves into a chain of plasmoids connected by secondary current sheets and the averaged reconnection rate becomes nearly independent of the Lundquist number. In a three-dimensional configuration with a guide field, the additional degree of freedom allows plasmoid instabilities to grow at oblique angles [S. Baalrud et al. Phys. Plasmas 19, 022101 (2012)] and develop the complex dynamics of flux ropes which overlap, cause field-line stochasticization, and self-generate a turbulent state. Three-dimensional simulations in the high-Lundquist-number regime show the formation of cigar-shaped eddies elongated in the direction of the local magnetic field, which is a signature of anisotropic MHD turbulence. Furthermore, the energy fluctuation spectra are found to satisfy power laws in the inertial range. The averaged 3D reconnection rate in the self-generated turbulent state is of the order of a hundredth of the characteristic Alfven speed, which is an order of magnitude lower than the reconnection rate reported in recent studies of externally driven 3D turbulent reconnection. The physical reasons for these differences will be discussed.