Durham University

Department of Mathematical Sciences

Academic Staff

Publication details for Peter Wyper

Wyper, P. & Pontin, D. (2014). Non-linear tearing of 3D null point current sheets. Physics of Plasmas 21(8): 082114.

Author(s) from Durham


The manner in which the rate of magnetic reconnection scales with the Lundquist number in realistic three-dimensional (3D) geometries is still an unsolved problem. It has been demonstrated that in 2D rapid non-linear tearing allows the reconnection rate to become almost independent of the Lundquist number (the “plasmoid instability”). Here, we present the first study of an analogous instability in a fully 3D geometry, defined by a magnetic null point. The 3D null current layer is found to be susceptible to an analogous instability but is marginally more stable than an equivalent 2D Sweet-Parker-like layer. Tearing of the sheet creates a thin boundary layer around the separatrix surface, contained within a flux envelope with a hyperbolic structure that mimics a spine-fan topology. Efficient mixing of flux between the two topological domains occurs as the flux rope structures created during the tearing process evolve within this envelope. This leads to a substantial increase in the rate of reconnection between the two domains.