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Title: Experimental and Computational Studies of High Energy Density Plasma Streams Ablated from Fine Wires

Experimental and computational studies of high energy density plasma streams ablated from fine wires. Laboratory of Plasma Studies, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Cornell University. Principal Investigators: Dr. John B. Greenly and Dr. Charles E. Seyler. This report summarizes progress during the final year of this project to study the physics of high energy density (HED) plasma streams of 10^17-10^20/cm3 density and high velocity (~100-500 km/s). Such streams are produced from 5-250 micrometer diameter wires heated and ionized by a 1 MA, 250 ns current pulse on the COBRA pulsed power facility at Cornell University. Plasma is ablated from the wires and is driven away to high velocity by unbalanced JxB force. A wire, or an array of wires, can persist as an essentially stationary, continuous source of this streaming plasma for >200 ns, even with driving magnetic fields of many Tesla and peak current densities in the plasma of many MA/cm2. At the heart of the ablation stream generation is the continuous transport of mass from the relatively cold, near-solid-density wire "core" into current-carrying plasma within 1 mm of the wire, followed by the magnetic acceleration of that plasma and its trapped flux to form a directed stream.more » In the first two years of this program, an advancing understanding of ablation physics led to the discovery of several novel wire ablation experimental regimes. In the final year, one of these new HED plasma regimes has been studied in quantitative detail. This regime studies highly reproducible magnetic reconnection in strongly radiating plasma with supersonic and superalfvenic flow, and shock structures in the outflow. The key discovery is that very heavy wires, e.g. 250 micrometer diameter Al or 150 micrometer Cu, behave in a qualitatively different way than the lighter wires typically used in wire-array Z-pinches. Such wires can be configured to produce a static magnetic X-point null geometry that stores magnetic and thermal energy; reconnection and outflow are triggered when the current begins to decrease and the electric field reverses. The reconnecting flow is driven by both magnetic and thermal pressure forces, and it has been found to be possible to vary the configuration so that one or the other dominates. The magnetic null extends into a current sheet that is heated and radiates strongly, with supersonic outflows. This is the first study of reconnection in this HED plasma regime. This compressible, radiative regime, and the triggering mechanism, may be relevant to solar and astrophysical processes. The PERSEUS extended MHD code has been developed for simulation of these phenomena, and will continue to be used and further developed to help interpret and understand experimental results, as well as to guide experimental design. The code is well-suited to simulations of shocks, and includes Hall and electron inertia physics that appear to be of importance in a number of ablation flow regimes, and definitely in the reconnection regime when gradient scales are comparable to the ion inertial scale. During the final year, our graduate student supported by this grant completed a new version of PERSEUS with the finite volume computational scheme replaced by a discontinuous Galerkin method that gives much less diffusive behavior and allows faster run time and higher spatial resolution. Thecode is now being used to study shock structures produced in the outflow region of the reconnection regime.« less
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  1. Cornell University
Publication Date:
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Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Cornell University
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE; USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Country of Publication:
United States
70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY wire ablation plasma, wire array Z-pinches; pulsed power; magnetic reconnection; plasma acceleration; plasma shocks