(3 votes from 2 institutions)
The initial conditions used in previous magnetorotational instability (MRI) simulations always consisted of a significant large or system-scale component, even if random. However it is of both conceptual and practical interest to assess whether the MRI can sustain when the initial field is turbulent, correlated on scales much smaller than the given system. More generally, we also study what minimum conditions the initial random small-scale field must have for the MRI to sustain the turbulence. The ubiquitous presence of turbulent or random flows in the high magnetic Reynolds number astrophysical plasmas in galaxies or stars for example, leads to a small-scale dynamo (SSD). This can generate random magnetic fields in the plasma that eventually enters an accretion disk. To simulate this scenario, we take the random field generated by the SSD as the input initial condition to a shearing box simulation that has uniform shear and rotation but with the forcing turned off. We find that the system becomes unstable to the MRI which then sustains the turbulence. The saturated stresses, large scale fields and power spectra in such simulations match the standard MRI simulation with an initial vertical large scale mode with zero net flux. For Gaussian random field initial conditions, the MRI does not grow. For MRI to grow, we determine that there is both a minimum field strength and minimum field coherence, which can be met naturally by an initial field configuration generated by the SSD, the most common form of magnetic field generation in the universe.