Local models of two-temperature accretion disc coronae – I. Structure, outflows, and energetics

Christopher J. Bambic, Eliot Quataert, Matthew W. Kunz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We use local stratified shearing-box simulations to elucidate the impact of two-temperature thermodynamics on the thermal structure of coronae in radiatively efficient accretion flows. Rather than treating the coronal plasma as an isothermal fluid, we use a simple, parametrized cooling function that models the collisional transfer of energy from the ions to the rapidly cooling leptons. Two-temperature models naturally form temperature inversions, with a hot, magnetically dominated corona surrounding a cold disc. Simulations with net vertical flux (NF) magnetic fields launch powerful magnetocentrifugal winds that would enhance accretion in a global system. The outflow rates are much better converged with increasing box height than analogous isothermal simulations, suggesting that the winds into two-temperature coronae may be sufficiently strong to evaporate a thin disc and form a radiatively inefficient accretion flow under some conditions. We find evidence for multiphase structure in the corona, with broad density and temperature distributions, and we propose criteria for the formation of a multiphase corona. The fraction of cooling in the surface layers of the disc is substantially larger for NF fields compared to zero net-flux configurations, with moderate NF simulations radiating ≳30 per cent of the flow’s total luminosity above two mid-plane scale heights. Our work shows that NF fields may efficiently power the coronae of luminous Seyfert galaxies and quasars, providing compelling motivation for future studies of the heating mechanisms available to NF fields and the interplay of radiation with two-temperature thermodynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2895-2918
Number of pages24
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


  • (magnetohydrodynamics) MHD
  • accretion, accretion discs
  • plasmas


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