Instabilities and transport in magnetized plasmas

Rosin, Mark (2011-02-08)


In a magnetized plasma, naturally occurring pressure anisotropies facilitate in- stabilities that are expected to modify the transport properties of the system. In this thesis we examine two such instabilities and, where appropriate, their effects on transport. First we consider the collisional (fluid) magnetized magnetorotational instability (MRI) in the presence of the Braginskii viscosity. We conduct a global linear analysis of the instability in a galactic rotation profile for three magnetic field configurations: purely azimuthal, purely vertical and slightly pitched. Our analysis, numerical and asymptotic, shows that the first two represent singular configurations where the Braginskii viscosity’s primary role is dissipative and the maximum growth rate is proportional to the Reynolds number when this is small. For a weak pitched field, the Braginskii viscosity is destabilising and when its effects dominate over the Lorentz force, the growth rate of the MRI can be up to 2√2 times faster than the inviscid limit. If the field is strong, an over-stability develops and both the real and imaginary parts of the frequency increase with the coefficient of the viscosity. Second, in the context of the ICM of galaxy clusters, we consider the pressure-anisotropy-driven firehose instability. The linear instability is fast (∼ ion cyclotron period) and small-scale (ion Larmor radius ρi) and so fluid theory is inapplicable. We determine its nonlinear evolution in an ab initio kinetic calculation (for parallel gradients only). We use a particular physical asymptotic ordering to derive a closed nonlinear equation for the firehose turbulence, which we solve. We find secular (∝ t) growth of magnetic fluctuations and a k−∥3 spectrum, starting at scales >~ ρi. When a parallel ion heat flux is present, the parallel firehose instability mutates into the new gyrothermal instability. Its nonlinear evolution also involves secular magnetic energy growth, but its spectrum is eventually dominated by modes with a maximal scale ∼ρilT/λmfp,(lT is the parallel temperature gradient scale). Throughout we discuss implications for modelling, transport and other areas of magnetized plasma physics.