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LOCAL TWO-DIMENSIONAL PARTICLE-IN-CELL SIMULATIONS OF THE COLLISIONLESS MAGNETOROTATIONAL INSTABILITY

Riquelme, Mario A. and Quataert, Eliot and Sharma, Prateek and Spitkovsky, Anatoly (2012) LOCAL TWO-DIMENSIONAL PARTICLE-IN-CELL SIMULATIONS OF THE COLLISIONLESS MAGNETOROTATIONAL INSTABILITY. In: ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL, 755 (1).

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/0004-637X/755/1/50

Abstract

The magnetorotational instability (MRI) is a crucial mechanism of angular momentum transport in a variety of astrophysical accretion disks. In systems accreting at well below the Eddington rate, such as the central black hole in the Milky Way (Sgr A*), the plasma in the disk is essentially collisionless. We present a nonlinear study of the collisionless MRI using first-principles particle-in-cell plasma simulations. We focus on local two-dimensional (axisymmetric) simulations, deferring more realistic three-dimensional simulations to future work. For simulations with net vertical magnetic flux, the MRI continuously amplifies the magnetic field, B, until the Alfven velocity, v(A), is comparable to the speed of light, c (independent of the initial value of v(A)/c). This is consistent with the lack of saturation of MRI channel modes in analogous axisymmetric MHD simulations. The amplification of the magnetic field by the MRI generates a significant pressure anisotropy in the plasma (with the pressure perpendicular to B being larger than the parallel pressure). We find that this pressure anisotropy in turn excites mirror modes and that the volume-averaged pressure anisotropy remains near the threshold for mirror mode excitation. Particle energization is due to both reconnection and viscous heating associated with the pressure anisotropy. Reconnection produces a distinctive power-law component in the energy distribution function of the particles, indicating the likelihood of non-thermal ion and electron acceleration in collisionless accretion disks. This has important implications for interpreting the observed emission-from the radio to the gamma-rays-of systems such as Sgr A*.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright for this article belongs to the IOP PUBLISHING LTD, TEMPLE CIRCUS, TEMPLE WAY, BRISTOL BS1 6BE, ENGLAND
Keywords: accretion, accretion disks; dynamo; magnetic fields; plasmas
Department/Centre: Division of Physical & Mathematical Sciences > Physics
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2012 12:18
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2012 12:18
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ernet.in/id/eprint/44995

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