Angular Momentum Transport in Protoplanetary and Black Hole Accretion Disks: The Role of Parasitic Modes in the Saturation of MHD Turbulence

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt

The magnetorotational instability (MRI) is considered a key process for driving efficient angular momentum transport in astrophysical disks. Understanding its nonlinear saturation constitutes a fundamental problem in modern accretion disk theory. The large dynamical range in physical conditions in accretion disks makes it challenging to address this problem only with numerical simulations. We analyze the concept that (secondary) parasitic instabilities are responsible for the saturation of the MRI. Our approach enables us to explore dissipative regimes that are relevant to astrophysical and laboratory conditions that lie beyond the regime accessible to current numerical simulations. We calculate the spectrum and physical structure of parasitic modes that feed off the fastest, exact (primary) MRI mode when its amplitude is such that the fastest parasitic mode grows as fast as the MRI. We argue that this "saturation" amplitude provides an estimate of the magnetic field that can be generated by the MRI before the secondary instabilities suppress its growth significantly. Recent works suggest that the saturation amplitude of the MRI depends mainly on the magnetic Prandtl number. Our results suggest that, as long as viscous effects do not dominate the fluid dynamics, the saturation level of the MRI depends only on the Elsasser number ¿¿. We calculate the ratio between the stress and the magnetic energy density, asatßsat, associated with the primary MRI mode. We find that for ¿¿gt1 Kelvin-Helmholtz modes are responsible for saturation and asatßsat = 0.4, while for ¿¿ <1 tearing modes prevail and asatßsat ~= 0.5 ¿¿. Several features of numerical simulations designed to address the saturation of the MRI in accretion disks surrounding young stars and compact objects can be interpreted in terms of our findings.
TidsskriftThe Astrophysical Journal, Volume 716, Issue 2, pp. 1012-1027 (2010).
Sider (fra-til)1012-1027
StatusUdgivet - 1 jun. 2010

ID: 40263526