By examining the entropy production in fully kinetic simulations of collisional plasmas, it is shown that the transition from collisional Sweet-Parker reconnection to collisionless Hall reconnection may be viewed as a thermodynamic phase transition. The phase transition occurs when the reconnection electric field satisfies E=EDme/mi, where me/mi is the electron-to-ion mass ratio and ED is the Dreicer electric field. This condition applies for all mi/me, including mi/me=1, where the Hall regime vanishes and a direct phase transition from the collisional to the kinetic regime occurs. In the limit me/mi→0, this condition is equivalent to there being a critical electron temperature Te≈miωi2δ2, where ωi is the ion cyclotron frequency and δ is the current sheet half-thickness. The heat capacity of the current sheet changes discontinuously across the phase transition, and a critical power law is identified in an effective heat capacity. A model for the time-dependent evolution of an isolated current sheet in the collisional regime is derived.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy(all)