Relativistic magnetic reconnection driven by a laser interacting with a micro-scale plasma slab
Journal article, 2018
Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental plasma process associated with conversion of the embedded magnetic field energy into kinetic and thermal plasma energy, via bulk acceleration and Ohmic dissipation. In many high-energy astrophysical events, magnetic reconnection is invoked to explain the non-thermal signatures. However, the processes by which field energy is transferred to the plasma to power the observed emission are still not properly understood. Here, via 3D particle-in-cell simulations of a readily available (TW-mJ-class) laser interacting with a micro-scale plasma slab, we show that when the electron beams excited on both sides of the slab approach the end of the plasma structure, ultrafast relativistic magnetic reconnection occurs in a magnetically-dominated (low-β) plasma. The resulting efficient particle acceleration leads to the emission of relativistic electron jets with cut-off energy ∼ 12 MeV. The proposed scenario can significantly improve understanding of fundamental questions such as reconnection rate, field dissipation and particle acceleration in relativistic magnetic reconnection.