Articles | Volume 16, issue 1
13 Feb 2009
 | 13 Feb 2009

Advection/diffusion of large scale magnetic field in accretion disks

R. V. E. Lovelace, G. S. Bisnovatyi-Kogan, and D. M. Rothstein

Abstract. Activity of the nuclei of galaxies and stellar mass systems involving disk accretion to black holes is thought to be due to (1) a small-scale turbulent magnetic field in the disk (due to the magneto-rotational instability or MRI) which gives a large viscosity enhancing accretion, and (2) a large-scale magnetic field which gives rise to matter outflows and/or electromagnetic jets from the disk which also enhances accretion. An important problem with this picture is that the enhanced viscosity is accompanied by an enhanced magnetic diffusivity which acts to prevent the build up of a significant large-scale field. Recent work has pointed out that the disk's surface layers are non-turbulent and thus highly conducting (or non-diffusive) because the MRI is suppressed high in the disk where the magnetic and radiation pressures are larger than the thermal pressure. Here, we calculate the vertical (z) profiles of the stationary accretion flows (with radial and azimuthal components), and the profiles of the large-scale, magnetic field taking into account the turbulent viscosity and diffusivity due to the MRI and the fact that the turbulence vanishes at the surface of the disk. We derive a sixth-order differential equation for the radial flow velocity vr(z) which depends mainly on the midplane thermal to magnetic pressure ratio β>1 and the Prandtl number of the turbulence P=viscosity/diffusivity. Boundary conditions at the disk surface take into account a possible magnetic wind or jet and allow for a surface current in the highly conducting surface layer. The stationary solutions we find indicate that a weak (β>1) large-scale field does not diffuse away as suggested by earlier work.