Ion and electron acoustic bursts during anti-parallel magnetic reconnection driven by lasers

Shu Zhang, Abraham Chien, Lan Gao, Hantao Ji, Eric G. Blackman, Russ Follett, Dustin H. Froula, Joseph Katz, Chikang Li, Andrew Birkel, Richard Petrasso, John Moody, Hui Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Magnetic reconnection converts magnetic energy into thermal and kinetic energy in plasma. Among the numerous candidate mechanisms, ion acoustic instabilities driven by the relative drift between ions and electrons (or equivalently, electric current) have been suggested to play a critical role in dissipating magnetic energy in collisionless plasmas. However, their existence and effectiveness during reconnection have not been well understood due to ion Landau damping and difficulties in resolving the Debye length scale in the laboratory. Here we report a sudden onset of ion acoustic bursts measured by collective Thomson scattering in the exhaust of anti-parallel magnetically driven reconnection using high-power lasers. The ion acoustic bursts are followed by electron acoustic bursts with electron heating and bulk acceleration. We reproduce these observations with one- and two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations in which an electron outflow jet drives ion acoustic instabilities, forming double layers. These layers induce electron two-stream instabilities that generate electron acoustic bursts and energize electrons. Our results demonstrate the importance of ion and electron acoustic dynamics during reconnection when ion Landau damping is ineffective, a condition applicable to a range of astrophysical plasmas including near-Earth space, stellar flares and black hole accretion engines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)909-916
Number of pages8
JournalNature Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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