Hybrid-kinetic Simulations of Ion Heating in Alfvénic Turbulence

Lev Arzamasskiy, Matthew Walter Kunz, Benjamin D.G. Chandran, Eliot Quataert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


We present three-dimensional, hybrid-kinetic numerical simulations of driven Alfvén-wave turbulence of relevance to the collisionless near-Earth solar wind. Special attention is paid to the spectral transition that occurs near the ion-Larmor scale and to the origins of preferential perpendicular ion heating and of nonthermal wings in the parallel distribution function. Several novel diagnostics are used to show that the ion heating rate increases as the kinetic-Alfvén-wave fluctuations, which comprise the majority of the sub-ion-Larmor turbulent cascade, attain near-ion-cyclotron frequencies. We find that ≈75%-80% of the cascade energy goes into heating the ions, broadly consistent with the near-Earth solar wind. This heating is accompanied by clear velocity-space signatures in the particle energization rates and the distribution functions, including a flattened core in the perpendicular-velocity distribution and non-Maxwellian wings in the parallel-velocity distribution. The latter are attributed to transit-Time damping and the pitch-Angle scattering of perpendicularly heated particles into the parallel direction. Accompanying these features is a steepening of the spectral index of sub-ion-Larmor magnetic-field fluctuations beyond the canonical-2.8, as field energy is transferred to thermal energy. These predictions may be tested by measurements in the near-Earth solar wind.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number53
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • acceleration of particles
  • plasmas
  • solar wind
  • turbulence


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