Department of Physics, University of Maryland
Wave generation and heat flux suppression in astrophysical plasma systems
Heat flux suppression in collisionless plasmas for a large range of plasma β is explored using two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations with a strong, sustained thermal gradient. We find that a transition takes place between whistler-dominated (high-β) and double-layer-dominated (low-β) heat flux suppression. Whistlers saturate at small amplitude in the low beta limit and are unable to effectively suppress the heat flux. Electrostatic double layers suppress the heat flux to a mostly constant factor of the free streaming value once this transition happens. The double layer physics is an example of ion-electron coupling and occurs on a scale of roughly the electron Debye length. The scaling of ion heating associated with the various heat flux driven instabilities is explored over the full range of β explored. The range of plasma-βs studied in this work makes it relevant to the dynamics of a large variety of astrophysical plasmas, including the intracluster medium of galaxy clusters, hot accretion flows, stellar and accretion disk coronae, and the solar wind.