Damping of MHD turbulence in a partially ionized medium

Yue Hu, Siyao Xu, Lev Arzamasskiy, James M. Stone, A. Lazarian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The coupling state between ions and neutrals in the interstellar medium plays a key role in the dynamics of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence, but is challenging to study numerically. In this work, we investigate the damping of MHD turbulence in a partially ionized medium using 3D two-fluid (ions + neutrals) simulations generated with the athenak code. Specifically, we examine the velocity, density, and magnetic field statistics of the two-fluid MHD turbulence in different regimes of neutral-ion coupling. Our results demonstrate that when ions and neutrals are strongly coupled, the velocity statistics resemble those of single-fluid MHD turbulence. Both the velocity structures and kinetic energy spectra of ions and neutrals are similar, while their density structures can be significantly different. With an excess of small-scale sharp density fluctuations in ions, the density spectrum in ions is shallower than that of neutrals. When ions and neutrals are weakly coupled, the turbulence in ions is more severely damped due to the ion-neutral collisional friction than that in neutrals, resulting in a steep kinetic energy spectrum and density spectrum in ions compared to the Kolmogorov spectrum. We also find that the magnetic energy spectrum basically follows the shape of the kinetic energy spectrum of ions, irrespective of the coupling regime. In addition, we find large density fluctuations in ions and neutrals and thus spatially inhomogeneous ionization fractions. As a result, the neutral-ion decoupling and damping of MHD turbulence take place over a range of length-scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3945-3961
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • ISM: general
  • ISM: magnetohydrodynamics
  • magnetic field
  • turbulence


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