Andrew Hillier, Ben Snow, Giulia Murtas
The solar atmosphere is a complex and chaotic plasma environment, rife with explosive phenomena
driven by the complex magnetic structure undergoing topological changes and releasing this
stored energy through a process known as magnetic reconnection. This process readily occurs in
the twisted (kinked) magnetic flux ropes that exist throughout the solar atmosphere, however the behaviour
of this process has not been well studied in the lower solar atmosphere where the medium is
partially ionised, i.e., consists of both ionised and neutral species. Partial ionisation can accelerate
the rate at which energy is released through magnetic reconnection and lead to additional heating.
In this project, we performed on the DiRAC COSMA7 system 3D multi-fluid, partially ionised simulations
of the kink-instability to understand how magnetic reconnection occurs in the lower solar
atmosphere. Numerical simulations are performed using the (PIP) code that evolves two-fluid (neutral,
ion+electron) equations using the non-dimensional form. The species are coupled through both
thermal collisions and ionisation/recombination. The energy required to ionise the system exists as
an energy sink in the plasma species and is balanced initially by a heating term
Our initial conditions are a 3D force-free magnetic flux rope that is unstable to the kink instability.
As the system evolves, the magnetic field twists, creating current sheets that undergo magnetic reconnection,
converting magnetic energy to kinetic and thermal energy. Since magnetic reconnection
is a plasma process, it does not directly affect the neutral species. The plasma couples to the neutral
species through thermal collisions and ionisation/recombination. We find that in a partially ionised
plasma, the instability is accelerated increasing the explosive nature of the dynamics.
Three-dimensional partially ionised simulations become numerically taxing due to the small timestep
(determined by the interactions between ionised and neutral fluids) and the complex physics
involved (thermal collisions, ionisation, recombination, radiative losses). As such, 3D simulations
of two-fluid plasma become computationally expensive. This project was only possible due to the
generous computational time provided on the COSMA7 system (DiRAC@Durham) as part of the
STFC DiRAC HPC Facility (ST/P002293/1, ST/R002371/1 and ST/S002502/1, ST/R000832/1).