A global three-dimensional radiation magneto-hydrodynamic simulation of super-Eddington accretion disks

Yan Fei Jiang, James McLellan Stone, Shane W. Davis

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We study super-Eddington accretion flows onto black holes using a global three-dimensional radiation magneto-hydrodynamical simulation. We solve the time-dependent radiative transfer equation for the specific intensities to accurately calculate the angular distribution of the emitted radiation. Turbulence generated by the magneto-rotational instability provides self-consistent angular momentum transfer. The simulation reaches inflow equilibrium with an accretion rate 220 L Edd/c 2 and forms a radiation-driven outflow along the rotation axis. The mechanical energy flux carried by the outflow is 20% of the radiative energy flux. The total mass flux lost in the outflow is about 29% of the net accretion rate. The radiative luminosity of this flow is 10 L Edd. This yields a radiative efficiency 4.5%, which is comparable to the value in a standard thin disk model. In our simulation, vertical advection of radiation caused by magnetic buoyancy transports energy faster than photon diffusion, allowing a significant fraction of the photons to escape from the surface of the disk before being advected into the black hole. We contrast our results with the lower radiative efficiencies inferred in most models, such as the slim disk model, which neglect vertical advection. Our inferred radiative efficiencies also exceed published results from previous global numerical simulations, which did not attribute a significant role to vertical advection. We briefly discuss the implications for the growth of supermassive black holes in the early universe and describe how these results provided a basis for explaining the spectrum and population statistics of ultraluminous X-ray sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • Methods: numerical
  • Radiative transfer


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