Chiral fermion asymmetry in high-energy plasma simulations

J. Schober, A. Brandenburg, I. Rogachevskii

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The chiral magnetic effect (CME) is a quantum relativistic effect that describes the appearance of an additional electric current along a magnetic field. It is caused by an asymmetry between the number densities of left- and right-handed fermions, which can be maintained at high energies when the chirality flipping rate can be neglected, for example in the early Universe. The inclusion of the CME in the Maxwell equations leads to a modified set of magnetohydrodynamical (MHD) equations. The CME is studied here in numerical simulations with the Pencil Code. We discuss how the CME is implemented in the code and how the time step and the spatial resolution of a simulation need to be adjusted in presence of a chiral asymmetry. The CME plays a key role in the evolution of magnetic fields, since it results in a dynamo effect associated with an additional term in the induction equation. This term is formally similar to the α effect in classical mean-field MHD. However, the chiral dynamo can operate without turbulence and is associated with small spatial scales that can be, in the case of the early Universe, orders of magnitude below the Hubble radius. A chiral αμ effect has also been identified in mean-field theory. It occurs in the presence of turbulence, but is not related to kinetic helicity. Depending on the plasma parameters, chiral dynamo instabilities can amplify magnetic fields over many orders of magnitude. These instabilities can potentially affect the propagation of MHD waves. Our numerical simulations demonstrate strong modifications of the dispersion relation for MHD waves for large chiral asymmetry. We also study the coupling between the evolution of the chiral chemical potential and the ordinary chemical potential, which is proportional to the sum of the number densities of left- and right-handed fermions. An important consequence of this coupling is the emergence of chiral magnetic waves (CMWs). We confirm numerically that linear CMWs and MHD waves are not interacting. Our simulations suggest that the chemical potential has only a minor effect on the non-linear evolution of the chiral dynamo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-129
Number of pages24
JournalGeophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 3 Mar 2020


  • MHD dynamos
  • Relativistic magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • chiral magnetic effect
  • numerical simulations
  • turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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