Ion Acceleration and Heating by Kinetic Alfvén Waves Associated with Magnetic Reconnection

Document Type


Publication Date



Our previous study on the generation and signatures of kinetic Alfvén waves (KAWs) associated with magnetic reconnection in a current sheet revealed that KAWs are a common feature during reconnection [Liang et al. J. Geophys. Res.: Space Phys. 121, 6526 (2016)]. In this paper, ion acceleration and heating by the KAWs generated during magnetic reconnection are investigated with a three-dimensional (3-D) hybrid model. It is found that in the outflow region, a fraction of inflow ions are accelerated by the KAWs generated in the leading bulge region of reconnection, and their parallel velocities gradually increase up to slightly super-Alfvénic. As a result of wave-particle interactions, an accelerated ion beam forms in the direction of the anti-parallel magnetic field, in addition to the core ion population, leading to the development of non-Maxwellian velocity distributions, which include a trapped population with parallel velocities consistent with the wave speed. The ions are heated in both parallel and perpendicular directions. In the parallel direction, the heating results from nonlinear Landau resonance of trapped ions. In the perpendicular direction, however, evidence of stochastic heating by the KAWs is found during the acceleration stage, with an increase of magnetic moment μ. The coherence in the perpendicular ion temperature T⊥" role="presentation">T⊥ and the perpendicular electric and magnetic fields of KAWs also provides evidence for perpendicular heating by KAWs. The parallel and perpendicular heating of the accelerated beam occur simultaneously, leading to the development of temperature anisotropy with T⊥>T∥" role="presentation">T⊥>T∥. The heating rate agrees with the damping rate of the KAWs, and the heating is dominated by the accelerated ion beam. In the later stage, with the increase of the fraction of the accelerated ions, interaction between the accelerated beam and the core population also contributes to the ion heating, ultimately leading to overlap of the beams and an overall anisotropy with T∥>T⊥" role="presentation">T∥>T⊥.

Journal Title

Physics of Plasmas





First Page


Last Page




First Department

Engineering and Computer Science