The observation of radio, X-ray and Hα emission from substellar objects indicates the presence of plasma regions and associated high-energy processes in their surrounding envelopes. This paper numerically simulates and characterises Critical Velocity Ionisation, a potential ionisation process, that can efficiently generate plasma as a result of neutral gas flows interacting with seed magnetized plasmas. By coupling a Gas-MHD interactions code (to simulate the ionisation mechanism) with a substellar global circulation model (to provide the required gas flows) we quantify the spatial extent of the resulting plasma regions, their degree of ionisation and their lifetime for a typical substellar atmosphere. It is found that the typical average ionisation fraction reached at equilibrium (where the ionisation and recombination rates are equal and opposite) ranges from 10-5 to 10-8, at pressures between 10-1 and 10-3 bar, with a trend of increasing ionisation fraction with decreasing atmospheric pressure. The ionisation fractions reached as a result of Critical Velocity Ionisation are sufficient to allow magnetic fields to couple to gas flows in the atmosphere.
Wilson, A. D., Dobbs-Dixon, I., Diver, D. A., & Stark, C. R. (2019). Critical velocity ionisation in substellar atmospheres. Astrophysical Journal, 887(2), . https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/ab5800