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Physics Of Plasmas


Measurements are presented from the Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment (SSX) [M. R. Brown, Phys. Plasmas 6, 1717 (1999)] showing a population of superthermal, super-Alfvénic ions with Ē≅90 eV and Emax⩾200 eV accelerated by reconnection activity in three-dimensional magnetic structures. These energetic ions are temporally and spatially correlated with three-dimensional magnetic reconnection events (measured with a 3D probe array) and are accelerated along the X-line normal to the local 2D plane of reconnection. In a typical SSX discharge, the peak reconnection electromotive force ℰ=vBL⩽(105 m/s)(0.05 T)(0.1 m)=500 V consistent with our observations. In addition, test particle simulations using magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) data from SSX simulations and run with dimensionless parameters similar to the experiment (S=1000, β=0.1) show acceleration of ions up to 2vAlf in a few Alfvén times consistent with the measurement. The process includes two phases—a strong but short duration direct acceleration in the quasi-steady reconnection electric field, and a weaker longer lived sub-diffusive component associated with turbulence.


Magnetic reconnection, Acceleration measurement, Spheromaks, Magnetohydrodynamics, Electric fields


This work is freely available courtesy of the American Astronomical Society and IOP Publishing.

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