Tearing Instability and Current-Sheet Disruption in the Turbulent Dynamo

Alisa K. Galishnikova, Matthew W. Kunz, Alexander A. Schekochihin

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10 Scopus citations


Turbulence in a conducting plasma can amplify seed magnetic fields in what is known as the turbulent, or small-scale, dynamo. The associated growth rate and emergent magnetic-field geometry depend sensitively on the material properties of the plasma, in particular on the Reynolds number Re, the magnetic Reynolds number Rm, and their ratio PmRm/Re. For Pm>1, the amplified magnetic field is gradually arranged into a folded structure, with direction reversals at the resistive scale and field lines curved at the larger scale of the flow. As the mean magnetic energy grows to come into approximate equipartition with the fluid motions, this folded structure is thought to persist. Using analytical theory and high-resolution-magnetohydrodynamics simulations with the athena++ code, we show that these magnetic folds become unstable to tearing during the nonlinear stage of the dynamo for Rmâ 104 and Reâ 103. An Rm-and Pm-dependent tearing scale, at and below which folds are disrupted, is predicted theoretically and found to match well the characteristic field-reversal scale measured in the simulations. The disruption of folds by tearing increases the ratio of viscous-To-resistive dissipation. In the saturated state, the magnetic-energy spectrum exhibits a sub-Tearing-scale steepening to a slope consistent with that predicted for tearing-mediated Alfvénic turbulence. Its spectral peak appears to be independent of the resistive scale and comparable to the driving scale of the flow, while the magnetic energy resides in a broad range of scales extending down to the field-reversal scale set by tearing. Emergence of a degree of large-scale magnetic coherence in the saturated state of the turbulent dynamo may be consistent with observations of magnetic-field fluctuations in galaxy clusters and recent laboratory experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number041027
JournalPhysical Review X
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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