Mixing in magnetized turbulent media

Sharanya Sur, Liubin Pan, Evan Scannapieco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Turbulent motions are essential to the mixing of entrained fluids and are also capable of amplifying weak initial magnetic fields by small-scale dynamo action. Here we perform a systematic study of turbulent mixing in magnetized media, using three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic simulations that include a scalar concentration field. We focus on how mixing depends on the magnetic Prandtl number, Pm, from 1 to 4 and the Mach number,M, from 0.3 to 2.4. For all subsonic flows, we find that the velocity power spectrum has a k?5/3 slope in the early kinematic phase, but steepens due to magnetic back reactions as the field saturates. The scalar power spectrum, on the other hand, flattens compared to k?5/3 at late times, consistent with the ObukohovCorrsin picture of mixing as a cascade process. At higher Mach numbers, the velocity power spectrum also steepens due to the presence of shocks, and the scalar power spectrum again flattens accordingly. Scalar structures are more intermittent than velocity structures in subsonic turbulence, whereas for supersonic turbulence, velocity structures appear more intermittent than the scalars only in the kinematic phase. Independent of the Mach number of the flow, scalar structures are arranged in sheets in both the kinematic and saturated phases of the magnetic field evolution. For subsonic turbulence, scalar dissipation is hindered in the strong magnetic field regions, probably due to Lorentz forces suppressing the buildup of scalar gradients, whereas for supersonic turbulence, scalar dissipation increases monotonically with increasing magnetic field strength. At all Mach numbers, mixing is significantly slowed by the presence of dynamically important small-scale magnetic fields, implying that mixing in the interstellar medium and in galaxy clusters is less efficient than modeled in hydrodynamic simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number94
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014


  • ISM: abundances
  • magnetic fields
  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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