Observation of magnetic field generation via the Weibel instability in interpenetrating plasma flows

C. M. Huntington, F. Fiuza, J. S. Ross, A. B. Zylstra, R. P. Drake, D. H. Froula, G. Gregori, N. L. Kugland, C. C. Kuranz, M. C. Levy, C. K. Li, J. Meinecke, T. Morita, R. Petrasso, C. Plechaty, B. A. Remington, D. D. Ryutov, Y. Sakawa, Anatoly Spitkovsky, H. TakabeH. S. Park

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Abstract

Collisionless shocks can be produced as a result of strong magnetic fields in a plasma flow, and therefore are common in many astrophysical systems. The Weibel instability is one candidate mechanism for the generation of sufficiently strong fields to create a collisionless shock. Despite their crucial role in astrophysical systems, observation of the magnetic fields produced by Weibel instabilities in experiments has been challenging. Using a proton probe to directly image electromagnetic fields, we present evidence of Weibel-generated magnetic fields that grow in opposing, initially unmagnetized plasma flows from laser-driven laboratory experiments. Three-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations reveal that the instability efficiently extracts energy from the plasma flows, and that the self-generated magnetic energy reaches a few percent of the total energy in the system. This result demonstrates an experimental platform suitable for the investigation of a wide range of astrophysical phenomena, including collisionless shock formation in supernova remnants, large-scale magnetic field amplification, and the radiation signature from gamma-ray bursts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-176
Number of pages4
JournalNature Physics
Volume11
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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    Huntington, C. M., Fiuza, F., Ross, J. S., Zylstra, A. B., Drake, R. P., Froula, D. H., Gregori, G., Kugland, N. L., Kuranz, C. C., Levy, M. C., Li, C. K., Meinecke, J., Morita, T., Petrasso, R., Plechaty, C., Remington, B. A., Ryutov, D. D., Sakawa, Y., Spitkovsky, A., ... Park, H. S. (2015). Observation of magnetic field generation via the Weibel instability in interpenetrating plasma flows. Nature Physics, 11(2), 173-176. https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys3178