SUPPRESSION of ELECTRON THERMAL CONDUCTION in the HIGH β INTRACLUSTER MEDIUM of GALAXY CLUSTERS

21 May 2018

Understanding the thermodynamic state of the hot intracluster medium (ICM) in a galaxy cluster requires knowledge of the plasma transport processes, especially thermal conduction. The basic physics of thermal conduction in plasmas with ICM-like conditions has yet to be elucidated, however. We use particle-in-cell simulations and analytic models to explore the dynamics of an ICM-like plasma (with small gyroradius, large mean free path, and strongly sub-dominant magnetic pressure) driven by the diffusive heat flux associated with thermal conduction. Linear theory reveals that whistler waves are driven unstable by electron heat flux, even when the heat flux is weak. The resonant interaction of electrons with these waves then plays a critical role in scattering electrons and suppressing the heat flux. In a 1D model where only whistler modes that are parallel to the magnetic field are captured, the only resonant electrons are moving in the opposite direction to the heat flux, and the electron heat flux suppression is small. In 2D or more, oblique whistler modes also resonate with electrons moving in the direction of the heat flux. The overlap of resonances leads to effective symmetrization of the electron distribution function and a strong suppression of heat flux. The results suggest that thermal conduction in the ICM might be strongly suppressed, possibly to negligible levels.