Magnetic tension force

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The magnetic tension force is a restoring force (SI unit: Pa·m−1) that acts to straighten bent magnetic field lines. It equals:

\frac{\left(\mathbf{B}\cdot\nabla\right)\mathbf{B}}{\mu_0} \, (\text{S.I.}) \qquad
\frac{(\mathbf B\cdot\nabla)\mathbf B}{4\pi} \,(\text{c.g.s.})

It is analogous to rubber bands and their restoring force. The force is directed antiradially. Although magnetic tension is referred to as a force, it is actually a pressure gradient (Pa m−1) which is also a force density (N m−3).

The magnetic pressure is the energy density of the magnetic field and it increases as magnetic field lines convene with each other. In contrast, magnetic tension force is determined by how much the magnetic pressure changes with distance. Magnetic tension forces also rely on vector current densities \mathbf{J} and their interaction with the magnetic field \mathbf{B}. Plotting magnetic tension along adjacent field lines can give a picture as to their divergence and convergence with respect to each other as well as current densities \mathbf{J}.

Use in Plasma Physics[edit]

Magnetic tension is particularly important in plasma physics and magnetohydrodynamics, where it controls dynamics of some systems and the shape of magnetized structures. In magnetohydrodynamics, the magnetic tension force can be derived from the momentum equation of plasma physics

\rho\left(\frac{\partial}{\partial t}+ \mathbf{V}\cdot\nabla \right)\mathbf{V} = \mathbf{J}\times\mathbf{B} - \nabla p

using the relation \mu_0\mathbf{J}=\nabla\times\mathbf{B}. The first term on the right hand side of the above equation represents electromagnetic forces and the second term represents pressure gradient forces.

See also[edit]