Laminar accretion in the habitable zone of protoplanetary disks

Xue Ning Bai, James M. Stone

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Protoplanetary disks (PPDs) are widely believed to be turbulent as a result of the magnetorotational instability (MRI). We perform magnetohydrodynamical simulations of PPDs that for the first time, take into account both Ohmic resistivity and ambipolar diffusion in a self-consistent manner. We show that in the inner region of PPDs that corresponds the habitable zone, the MRI is completely suppressed due to the interplay between magnetic field and ambipolar diffusion. The gas in this region is laminar throughout the entire vertical extent of the disk. Instead of MRI-driven accretion, a strong magnetocentrifugal wind is launched that efficiently carries away disk angular momentum. A physical wind geometry requires the presence of a strong current layer that is offset from the disk midplane where horizontal magnetic fields flip. We show that the entire accretion flow proceeds through this strong current layer. The non-turbulent nature of the gas flow strongly favors the habitable zone as the site for planetesimal formation, and has important implications for their subsequent growth into terrestrial planets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFormation, Detection, and Characterization of Extrasolar Habitable Planets
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9781107033825
StatePublished - Aug 2012

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronomical Union
ISSN (Print)1743-9213
ISSN (Electronic)1743-9221

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Magnetocentrifugal winds
  • Magnetorotational instability
  • protoplanetary disks


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