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Suggested Citation:"Dynamo Action.." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.
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Page 148

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BASIC PLASMA EXPERIMENTS 148 occur in the Earth's magnetotail and become detached and move away from the Sun during magnetic storms. The propagation of plasmoids has been studied with small plasma guns. Larger structures of interest to fusion physics (i.e., spheromak plasmas) have also been investigated. (See Figure 8.1.) The latest generation of diagnostics, coupled with the recently developed ability to generate plasmoids easily, now permits a new generation of experiments. For example, one now can study in detail how plasmoids are generated, how they propagate, and the details of their internal field structure and associated plasma currents. Magnetic Effects Magnetic Field Line Reconnection. Magnetic field line reconnection is one of the principal means by which magnetic field energy is converted to thermal energy and plasma motion. For example, it is thought to be responsible for the high temperature of the solar corona and to be important in the Earth's magnetotail and in many astrophysical situations. Magnetic reconnection also is of importance in understanding the so- called sawtooth crashes that occur in the hot core of tokamak plasmas when a certain type of magnetohydrodynamic instability is present. In this case, reconnection has the effect of expelling hot plasma from near the plasma center and is detrimental to plasma confinement. Experiments on magnetic reconnection in plasmas with unmagnetized ions and magnetized electrons have already been done. Areas for further study include cases where the magnetic Reynolds number is greater than 100. Important issues include the three-dimensional nature of this phenomenon, the connection between global and local time scales, the acceleration and heating of the plasma particles, and the generation of plasma flows. Dynamo Action. The dynamo is a process by which the kinetic energy of a conducting fluid is transformed into magnetic field energy. (See Figure 8.4.) In a dynamo, a "seed" magnetic field from a small current fluctuation can be stretched and reconnected by the turbulent fluid motion. In principle, this can lead to amplification of the magnetic field to a level where the magnetic field dominates the dynamics of the fluid flow. The dynamo is a fundamental process in magnetohydrodynamics, and dynamo action is crucial to understanding many aspects of space physics and astrophysics. For example, it is believed to be the origin of the magnetic fields of such diverse objects as the Sun and the accretion disks of stars and is intimately connected with the physics of novae and supernovae. The conditions for dynamo action require large-scale flows in highly conducting media, and up until now, such conditions have proven difficult to achieve in the laboratory. The criterion for dynamo action is the achievement of Reynolds numbers on the order of 100. Possibilities now exist to carry out well controlled

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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