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Reduced Models for Plasma Tearing Modes

Project Full Title:

Examining Reduced Model Descriptions of Tearing Modes in Solar and Fusion Plasmas

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Project Description:

Tearing modes are a class of plasma instabilities that are driven by non-uniform current densities within fusion and astrophysical plasmas. Turbulence driven by these tearing modes plays an important role in both magnetically-confined nuclear fusion experiments and astrophysical settings such as solar flares, so an in-depth understanding of tearing modes highly desirable. There exists a large body of work studying tearing modes through sophisticated analytic models and large-scale computational efforts. This project attempts to capture the essential dynamics of tearing-driven turbulence through a reduced model, assuming that the majority of the turbulent dynamics can be described by a significantly truncated number of linear eigenmodes, specifically the most unstable linear mode and its conjugate stable mode. This assumption has been successfully utilized in dynamically similar turbulent systems, such as in describing shear-flow systems like zonal flows on Jupiter. This work will continue a project that began here at Hope, using computational tools to run simulations based on these simplified models and compare with more complex models to assess the effectiveness of the reduced model. Pending the success of these reduced models, different aspects of tearing mode systems can be study, in hopes of attaining more physical insights into tearing modes at greatly reduced expense. Highly motivated students with the appropriate math background will also have the opportunity to quantify analytically how effective this stable-unstable mode pair is at describing systems with tearing modes.

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