Publications by Alexander Schekochihin


Stochastic transport of high-energy particles through a turbulent plasma

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LE Chen, AFA Bott, P Tzeferacos, A Rigby, A Bell, C Graziani, J Katz, M Koenig, CK Li, R Petrasso, H-S Park, JS Ross, D Ryu, D Ryutov, TG White, B Reville, J Matthews, J Meinecke, F Miniati, EG Zweibel, S Sarkar, AA Schekochihin, DQ Lamb, DH Froula, G Gregori

The interplay between charged particles and turbulent magnetic fields is crucial to understanding how cosmic rays propagate through space. A key parameter which controls this interplay is the ratio of the particle gyroradius to the correlation length of the magnetic turbulence. For the vast majority of cosmic rays detected at the Earth, this parameter is small, and the particles are well confined by the Galactic magnetic field. But for cosmic rays more energetic than about 30 EeV, this parameter is large. These highest energy particles are not confined to the Milky Way and are presumed to be extragalactic in origin. Identifying their sources requires understanding how they are deflected by the intergalactic magnetic field, which appears to be weak, turbulent with an unknown correlation length, and possibly spatially intermittent. This is particularly relevant given the recent detection by the Pierre Auger Observatory of a significant dipole anisotropy in the arrival directions of cosmic rays of energy above 8 EeV. Here we report measurements of energetic-particle propagation through a random magnetic field in a laser-produced plasma. We characterize the diffusive transport of these particles and recover experimentally pitch-angle scattering measurements and extrapolate to find their mean free path and the associated diffusion coefficient, which show scaling-relations consistent with theoretical studies. This experiment validates these theoretical tools for analyzing the propagation of ultra-high energy cosmic rays through the intergalactic medium.


Multiscale Gyrokinetics for Rotating Tokamak Plasmas: Fluctuations, Transport and Energy Flows

ArXiv (0)

IG Abel, GG Plunk, E Wang, M Barnes, SC Cowley, W Dorland, AA Schekochihin

This paper presents a complete theoretical framework for plasma turbulence and transport in tokamak plasmas. The fundamental scale separations present in plasma turbulence are codified as an asymptotic expansion in the ratio of the gyroradius to the equilibrium scale length. Proceeding order-by-order in this expansion, a framework for plasma turbulence is developed. It comprises an instantaneous equilibrium, the fluctuations driven by gradients in the equilibrium quantities, and the transport-timescale evolution of mean profiles of these quantities driven by the fluctuations. The equilibrium distribution functions are local Maxwellians with each flux surface rotating toroidally as a rigid body. The magnetic equillibrium is obtained from the Grad-Shafranov equation for a rotating plasma and the slow (resistive) evolution of the magnetic field is given by an evolution equation for the safety factor q. Large-scale deviations of the distribution function from a Maxwellian are given by neoclassical theory. The fluctuations are determined by the high-flow gyrokinetic equation, from which we derive the governing principle for gyrokinetic turbulence in tokamaks: the conservation and local cascade of free energy. Transport equations for the evolution of the mean density, temperature and flow velocity profiles are derived. These transport equations show how the neoclassical corrections and the fluctuations act back upon the mean profiles through fluxes and heating. The energy and entropy conservation laws for the mean profiles are derived. Total energy is conserved and there is no net turbulent heating. Entropy is produced by the action of fluxes flattening gradients, Ohmic heating, and the equilibration of mean temperatures. Finally, this framework is condensed, in the low-Mach-number limit, to a concise set of equations suitable for numerical implementation.


Turbulence, magnetic fields, and plasma physics in clusters of galaxies

Physics of Plasmas 13 (2006)

AA Schekochihin, SC Cowley

Observations of galaxy clusters show that the intracluster medium (ICM) is likely to be turbulent and is certainly magnetized. The properties of this magnetized turbulence are determined both by fundamental nonlinear magnetohydrodynamic interactions and by the plasma physics of the ICM, which has very low collisionality. Cluster plasma threaded by weak magnetic fields is subject to firehose and mirror instabilities. These saturate and produce fluctuations at the ion gyroscale, which can scatter particles, increasing the effective collision rate and, therefore, the effective Reynolds number of the ICM. A simple way to model this effect is proposed. The model yields a self-accelerating fluctuation dynamo whereby the field grows explosively fast, reaching the observed, dynamically important, field strength in a fraction of the cluster lifetime independent of the exact strength of the seed field. It is suggested that the saturated state of the cluster turbulence is a combination of the conventional isotropic magnetohydrodynamic turbulence, characterized by folded, direction-reversing magnetic fields and an Alfván-wave cascade at collisionless scales. An argument is proposed to constrain the reversal scale of the folded field. The picture that emerges appears to be in qualitative agreement with observations of magnetic fields in clusters. © 2006 American Institute of Physics.


X-point collapse and saturation in the nonlinear tearing mode reconnection

Physical Review Letters 95 (2005)

NF Loureiro, SC Cowley, WD Dorland, MG Haines, AA Schekochihin

We study the nonlinear evolution of the resistive tearing mode in slab geometry in two dimensions. We show that, in the strongly driven regime (large Δ′), a collapse of the X point occurs once the island width exceeds a certain critical value ∼1/Δ′. A current sheet is formed and the reconnection is exponential in time with a growth rate ∞η1/2, where η is the resistivity. If the aspect ratio of the current sheet is sufficiently large, the sheet can itself become tearing-mode unstable, giving rise to secondary islands, which then coalesce with the original island. The saturated state depends on the value of Δ′. For small Δ′, the saturation amplitude is ∞Δ′ and quantitatively agrees with the theoretical prediction. If Δ′ is large enough for the X-point collapse to have occurred, the saturation amplitude increases noticeably and becomes independent of Δ′. © 2005 The American Physical Society.


Microstability physics as illuminated in the spherical tokamak

Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion 47 (2005)

CM Roach, DJ Applegate, JW Connor, SC Cowley, WD Dorland, RJ Hastie, N Joiner, S Saarelma, AA Schekochihin, RJ Akers, C Brickley, AR Field, M Valovic

Spherical tokamaks (STs) have attractive features for fusion, and there is considerable interest in understanding their transport properties which depend on the underlying microinstabilities. STs are capable of operation with low magnetic fields and exhibit large inhomogeneity in the toroidal magnetic field. These factors strongly affect particle dynamics and the potency of magnetic perturbations, which correspondingly impact on the microstability properties of STs. This paper reviews previous microstability studies in ST plasma configurations and presents gyrokinetic microstability calculations for a range of ST equilibria, using the gyrokinetic code GS2. Microstability properties of L-mode and H-mode equilibria, from the MAST experiment at Culham, are compared. In MAST the shearing rates of equilibrium E × B flows usually exceed the growth rates of microinstabilities with k⊥ρi < 1 (including ion temperature gradient, ITG, driven drift waves) and are generally smaller than the growth rates of shorter wavelength modes with k ⊥ρi > 1 (electron temperature gradient, ETG, driven drift waves). Electromagnetic effects are significant at mid-radius in these MAST equilibria, where the local β ≥ 0.1. At k ⊥ρi < 1, strongly electromagnetic modes dominate over ITG instabilities, and these modes are found to have tearing parity in the H-mode plasma and twisting parity in the L-mode plasma. Numerical experiments have been carried out to assess the properties of the tearing parity modes and to probe the underlying physical drive mechanism. At shorter wavelengths the electromagnetic effects can significantly stabilize the ETG instabilities. Nonlinear electron scale microturbulence calculations for two surfaces of a MAST H-mode plasma suggest that significant electron heat transport can be carried via this mechanism. In an extremely high β ST equilibrium, which has been proposed as the basis of a conceptual ST power plant, electrostatic instabilities are fully stabilized, but tearing parity modes are predicted to be unstable over-wide range of length scales. © 2005 IOP Publishing Ltd.


Nonlinear tearing mode reconnection

32nd EPS Conference on Plasma Physics 2005, EPS 2005, Held with the 8th International Workshop on Fast Ignition of Fusion Targets - Europhysics Conference Abstracts 1 (2005) 193-196

NF Loureiro, SC Cowley, WD Dorland, MG Haines, AA Schekochihin


Plasma instabilities and magnetic field growth in clusters of galaxies

ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL 629 (2005) 139-142

AA Schekochihin, SC Cowley, RM Kulsrud, GW Hammett, P Sharma


The onset of a small-scale turbulent dynamo at low magnetic Prandtl numbers

ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL 625 (2005) L115-L118

AA Schekochihin, NEL Haugen, A Brandenburg, SC Cowley, JL Maron, JC McWilliams


From small-scale dynamo to isotropic MHD turbulence

Astrophysics and Space Science 292 (2004) 141-146

AA Schekochihin, SC Cowley, SF Taylor, JL Maron, JC McWilliams

We consider the problem of incompressible, forced, nonhelical, homogeneous, isotropic MHD turbulence with no mean magnetic field. This problem is essentially different from the case with externally imposed uniform mean field. There is no scale-by-scale equipartition between magnetic and kinetic energies as would be the case for the Alfvén-wave turbulence. The isotropic MHD turbulence is the end state of the turbulent dynamo which generates folded fields with small-scale direction reversals. We propose that the statistics seen in numerical simulations of isotropic MHD turbulence could be explained as a superposition of these folded fields and Alfvén-like waves that propagate along the folds.


Simulations of the small-scale turbulent dynamo

ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL 612 (2004) 276-307

AA Schekochihin, SC Cowley, SF Taylor, JL Maron, JC McWilliams


Saturated State of the Nonlinear Small-Scale Dynamo

Physical Review Letters 92 (2004)

AA Schekochihin, SC Cowley, SF Taylor, GW Hammett, JL Maron, JC McWilliams

We consider the problem of incompressible, forced, nonhelical, homogeneous, and isotropic MHD turbulence with no mean magnetic field and large magnetic Prandtl number. This type of MHD turbulence is the end state of the turbulent dynamo, which generates folded fields with small-scale direction reversals. We propose a model in which saturation is achieved as a result of the velocity statistics becoming anisotropic with respect to the local direction of the magnetic folds. The model combines the effects of weakened stretching and quasi-two-dimensional mixing and produces magnetic-energy spectra in remarkable agreement with numerical results at least in the case of a one-scale flow. We conjecture that the statistics seen in numerical simulations could be explained as a superposition of these folded fields and Alfvén-like waves that propagate along the folds. © 2004 The American Physical Society.


Self-Similar Turbulent Dynamo

Physical Review Letters 92 (2004)

AA Schekochihin, SC Cowley, JL Maron, JC McWilliams

The amplification of magnetic fields in a highly conducting fluid is studied numerically. During growth, the magnetic field is spatially intermittent: it does not uniformly fill the volume, but is concentrated in long thin folded structures. Contrary to a commonly held view, intermittency of the folded field does not increase indefinitely throughout the growth stage if diffusion is present. Instead, as we show, the probability-density function (PDF) of the field-strength becomes self-similar. The normalized moments increase with magnetic Prandtl number in a powerlike fashion. We argue that the self-similarity is to be expected with a finite flow scale and system size. In the nonlinear saturated state, intermittency is reduced and the PDF is exponential. Parallels are noted with self-similar behavior recently observed for passive-scalar mixing and for map dynamos. © 2004 The American Physical Society.


Critical Magnetic Prandtl Number for Small-Scale Dynamo

Physical Review Letters 92 (2004) 545021-545024

AA Schekochihin, SC Cowley, JL Maron, JC McWilliams

The existence of small-scale dynamo in homogeneous incompressible turbulence with magnetic Prandtl number is discussed. A series of numerical simulations showing that the critical magnetic Reynolds number Rmc for the nonhelical small-scale dynamo depends on the Reynolds number Re is discussed. The dynamo is shut down if the magnetic Prandtl number Pr m = Rm/Re is less than some critical value Prm,c≲1. It is found that the existence of the dynamo depends on the exact inertial-range scaling of the velocity field and/or only manifests itself at very large Rm.


A model of nonlinear evolution and saturation of the turbulent MHD dynamo

New Journal of Physics 4 (2002)

AA Schekochihin, SC Cowley, GW Hammett, JL Maron, JC McWilliams

The growth and saturation of magnetic field in conducting turbulent media with large magnetic Prandtl numbers are investigated. This regime is very common in low-density hot astrophysical plasmas. During the early (kinematic) stage, weak magnetic fluctuations grow exponentially and concentrate at the resistive scale, which lies far below the hydrodynamic viscous scale. The evolution becomes nonlinear when the magnetic energy is comparable to the kinetic energy of the viscous-scale eddies. A physical picture of the ensuing nonlinear evolution of the MHD dynamo is proposed. Phenomenological considerations are supplemented with a simple Fokker-Planck model of the nonlinear evolution of the magnetic-energy spectrum. It is found that, while the shift of the bulk of the magnetic energy from the subviscous scales to the velocity scales may be possible, it occurs very slowly - at the resistive, rather than dynamical, timescale (for galaxies, this means that the generation of large-scale magnetic fields cannot be explained by this mechanism). The role of Alfvénic motions and the implications for the fully developed isotropic MHD turbulence are discussed.


The small-scale structure of magnetohydrodynamic turbulence with large magnetic Prandtl numbers

ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL 576 (2002) 806-813

AA Schekochihin, JL Maron, SC Cowley, JC McWilliams


Spectra and growth rates of fluctuating magnetic fields in the kinematic dynamo theory with large magnetic Prandtl numbers

ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL 567 (2002) 828-852

AA Schekochihin, SA Boldyrev, RM Kulsrud


Structure of small-scale magnetic fields in the kinematic dynamo theory.

Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys 65 (2002) 016305-

A Schekochihin, S Cowley, J Maron, L Malyshkin

A weak fluctuating magnetic field embedded into a a turbulent conducting medium grows exponentially while its characteristic scale decays. In the interstellar medium and protogalactic plasmas, the magnetic Prandtl number is very large, so a broad spectrum of growing magnetic fluctuations is excited at small (subviscous) scales. The condition for the onset of nonlinear back reaction depends on the structure of the field lines. We study the statistical correlations that are set up in the field pattern and show that the magnetic-field lines possess a folding structure, where most of the scale decrease is due to the field variation across itself (rapid transverse direction reversals), while the scale of the field variation along itself stays approximately constant. Specifically, we find that, though both the magnetic energy and the mean-square curvature of the field lines grow exponentially, the field strength and the field-line curvature are anticorrelated, i.e., the curved field is relatively weak, while the growing field is relatively flat. The detailed analysis of the statistics of the curvature shows that it possesses a stationary limiting distribution with the bulk located at the values of curvature comparable to the characteristic wave number of the velocity field and a power tail extending to large values of curvature where it is eventually cut off by the resistive regularization. The regions of large curvature, therefore, occupy only a small fraction of the total volume of the system. Our theoretical results are corroborated by direct numerical simulations. The implication of the folding effect is that the advent of the Lorentz back reaction occurs when the magnetic energy approaches that of the smallest turbulent eddies. Our results also directly apply to the problem of statistical geometry of the material lines in a random flow.


Spectra and Growth Rates of Fluctuating Magnetic Fields in the Kinematic Dynamo Theory with Large Magnetic Prandtl Numbers

Astrophys. J. 567 (2002) 828-828

A Schekochihin, S Boldyrev, R Kulsrud

The existence of a weak galactic magnetic field has been repeatedly confirmed by observational data. The origin of this field has not as yet been explained in a fully satisfactory way and represents one of the main challenges of the astrophysical dynamo theory. In both the galactic dynamo theory and the primordial-origin theory, a major influence is exerted by the small-scale magnetic fluctuations. This article is devoted to constructing a systematic second-order statistical theory of such small-scale fields. The statistics of these fields are studied in the kinematic approximation and for the case of large Prandtl numbers, which is relevant for the galactic and protogalactic plasma. The advecting velocity field is assumed to be Gaussian and short-time correlated. Theoretical understanding of this kinematic dynamo model is a necessary prerequisite for any prospective nonlinear dynamo theory. The theory is developed for an arbitrary degree of compressibility and formally in d dimensions, which generalizes the previously known results, elicits the structure of the solutions, and uncovers a number of new effects. The magnetic energy spectra are studied as they grow and spread over scales during the initial stage of the field amplification. Exact Green's-function solutions are obtained. The spectral theory is supplemented by the study of magnetic-field correlation functions in the configuration space, where the dynamo problem can be mapped onto a particular one-dimensional quantum-mechanical problem. The latter approach is most suitable for the description of the kinematic dynamo in the long-time limit, i.e. when the magnetic excitation has spread over all scales present in the system. A simple way of calculating the growth rates of the magnetic fields in this long-time limit is proposed.


Finite-correlation-time effects in the kinematic dynamo problem

Physics of Plasmas 8 (2001) 4937-4953

AA Schekochihin, RM Kulsrud

Most of the theoretical results on the kinematic amplification of small-scale magnetic fluctuations by turbulence have been confined to the model of white-noise-like (δ-correlated in time) advecting turbulent velocity field. In this work, the statistics of the passive magnetic field in the diffusion-free regime are considered for the case when the advecting flow is finite-time correlated. A new method is developed that allows one to systematically construct the correlation-time expansion for statistical characteristics of the field such as its probability density function or the complete set of its moments. The expansion is valid provided the velocity correlation time is smaller than the characteristic growth time of the magnetic fluctuations. This expansion is carried out up to first order in the general case of a d-dimensional arbitrarily compressible advecting flow. The growth rates for all moments of the magnetic-field strength are derived. The effect of the first-order corrections due to the finite correlation time is to reduce these growth rates. It is shown that introducing a finite correlation time leads to the loss of the small-scale statistical universality, which was present in the limit of the δ-correlated velocity field. Namely, the shape of the velocity time-correlation profile and the large-scale spatial structure of the flow become important. The latter is a new effect, that implies, in particular, that the approximation of a locally-linear shear flow does not fully capture the effect of nonvanishing correlation time. Physical applications of this theory include the small-scale kinematic dynamo in the interstellar medium and protogalactic plasmas. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.


Geometric properties of passive random advection

PHYSICAL REVIEW E 62 (2000) 545-552

SA Boldyrev, AA Schekochihin

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