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ACMS Abstracts: Spring 2013

Kourosh Shoele (RE Vision Consulting)


Cary Forest (UW)

Stirring Magnetized Plasma

Recently, a new concept for stirring a hot (T=100000 C), unmagnetized plasma has been demonstrated, making it possible to study the Dynamos and the Magnetorotational Instability (MRI) for the first time in a laboratory plasma. In the Plasma Couette Experiment, plasma is confined by a cylindrical, axisymmetric multicusp magnetic field. The field vanishes rapidly away from the boundaries, leaving a large, unmagnetized plasma in the bulk. Azimuthal flows (6 km/s) are driven with JxB torque using biased, heated filaments located at a single toroidal position at the boundary. Measurements show that momentum couples viscously from the magnetized edge to the unmagnetized core, and that the flow is axisymmetric. In order for the toroidal velocity to couple inward, the collisional ion viscosity must overcome the drag due to ion-neutral collisions. Flow speeds can be adjusted by simply increasing the bias voltage of the electrodes. When flow is driven only from the outer boundary, the plasma rotates as a solid-body and the MRI is stable. However, the addition of electrodes at the inner boundary enables us to drive the sheared flow necessary for destabilizing the MRI. This experiment has already achieved magnetic Reynolds numbers of Rm~50 and magnetic Prandtl numbers of Pm ~0.3–6, which are approaching regimes shown to excite the MRI in local linear analysis and global Hall-MHD numerical simulations. Experiments characterizing the MRI will compare the onset threshold to theoretical and numerical predictions, look for altered velocity profiles due to momentum transport during nonlinear saturation, and identify two fluid effects expected to arise from the Hall term and plasma-neutral interactions (important in protoplanetary accretion disks).

While these experiments have been carried out, have also been constructing a much larger (3 m diameter) dynamo experiment based on a Von Kármán like flow in a sphere that should be capable of generating plasmas with Rm~1500. Several different scenarios have been investigated numerically to show that the experiment has a very good chance of being a dynamo, including steady von Kármán flow that generates an equatorial dipole, and a new Galloway-Proctor like flow that uses time dependent boundary conditions to generate smooth, but chaotic flows that give a fast dynamo. The experiment is now constructed and will be described in this talk. Initial results on plasma formation will be presented.