Equilibrium and dynamics of collisionless current sheets
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In this thesis examples of translationally invariant one-dimensional (1D) Vlasov-Maxwell (VM) equilibria are investigated. The 1D VM equilibrium equations are equivalent to the motion of a pseudoparticle in a conservative pseudopotential, with the pseudopotential being proportional to one of the diagonal components of the plasma pressure tensor. A necessary condition on the pseudopotential (plasma pressure) to allow for force-free 1D VM equilibria is formulated. It is shown that linear force-free 1D VM solutions correspond to the case where the pseudopotential is an attractive central potential. The pseudopotential for the force-free Harris sheet is found and a Fourier transform method is used to find the corresponding distribution function. The solution is extended to include a family of equilibria that describe the transition between the Harris sheet and the force-free Harris sheet. These equilibria are used in 2.5D particle-in-cell simulations of magnetic reconnection. The structure of the diffusion region is compared for simulations starting from anti-parallel magnetic field configurations with different strengths of guide field and self-consistent linear and non-linear force-free magnetic fields. It is shown that gradients of off-diagonal components of the electron pressure tensor are the dominant terms that give rise to the reconnection electric field. The typical scale length of the electron pressure tensor components in the weak guide field case is of the order of the electron bounce widths in a field reversal. In the strong guide field case the scale length reduces to the electron Larmor radius in the guide magnetic field.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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