Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have gained insight into a fundamental process found throughout the universe.

Scientists have found that the magnetic fields that run through plasma, a charged state of matter made up of free electrons and atomic nuclei, may influence the joining and violent snapping apart of the plasma’s magnetic field lines. This knowledge might aid scientists in predicting the possibility of coronal mass ejections which are massive burps of plasma from the sun that can endanger satellites and power infrastructure on Earth.

The researchers concentrated on the role of guide fields which are magnetic fields that run through plasma blobs or chunks known as plasmoids. The guide fields add rigidity to the system and ultimately affect the ratio of large plasmoids to small ones and help determine how much reconnection occurs.

Plasmoid reconnection is similar to parallel computing in smartphones or high-powered computers that forecast the weather. During this process, numerous processors are calculating at the same time, increasing the overall calculation rate. Similarly, plasmoids accelerate the overall pace of reconnection by causing it to occur in several locations at the same time.

From left: Hantao Ji, professor of astrophysical science at Princeton University and distinguished research fellow at PPPL, and graduate student Stephen Majeski, in front of images of plasmoids and other phenomena Credit: Headshots courtesy of Elle Starkman; collage courtesy of Kiran Sudarsanan

“Understanding how guide magnetic fields affect plasmoids could give us a better idea of what affects magnetic reconnection on the sun and stars, and throughout the cosmos,” said Stephen Majeski, lead author of a paper reporting the results in Physics of Plasmas and a graduate student in Princeton University’s Program in Plasma Physics. “Guide fields are a knob we can turn up to reveal new information.”

The results provide insight into the ejection of large masses of plasma that speed across space and strike the Earth’s magnetosphere, the sheath of magnetic field lines surrounding our planet that protects us from high-energy particles. These giant plasma burps, if large enough, could damage the satellites that enable smartphones to provide driving directions and other applications. The burps could also damage electrical power grids on Earth. “This is all something you definitely want to be aware of,” Majeski said.

“This is new territory for plasmoid reconnection research,” said Hantao Ji, professor of astrophysical science at Princeton University and distinguished research fellow at PPPL, who helps manage PPPL’s Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX) that studies reconnection. “Majeski has added to our knowledge about guide fields to make progress toward understanding large-scale reconnection based on plasmoids. Nobody has looked at guide fields in this way before.”

Plasmoid reconnection with guide fields also occurs in doughnut-shaped tokamaks, the most widely used type of fusion facility around the world that use powerful magnets to confine plasma in the effort to harness on Earth fusion, the power that drives the sun and stars. Fusion combines light elements in the form of plasma to generate massive amounts of energy, a process that scientists are seeking to replicate for a virtually inexhaustible supply of power to generate electricity.

The researchers plan to make the models more accurate by including more physical effects, like the speed at which plasmoids combine. They also intend to perform experiments using MRX and PPPL’s new Facility for Laboratory Reconnection Experiment (FLARE), the large successor to MRX. FLARE will help probe how quickly reconnection takes place in large laboratory plasmas that are more relevant to astrophysical plasmas, and how the magnetic energy turns into explosive thermal energy.

Reference: “Guide field effects on the distribution of plasmoids in multiple scale reconnection” by Stephen Majeski, Hantao Ji, Jonathan Jara-Almonte and Jongsoo Yoo, 3 September 2021, Physics of Plasmas.
DOI: 10.1063/5.0059017

This research was supported by the DOE Office of Science (Fusion Energy Sciences).

Collaborators included PPPL physicists Jongsoo Yoo and Jonathan Jara-Almonte.

PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy.

TECH NEWS RELATED

NASA scientists say images from the Webb telescope nearly brought them to tears

Deep field images of the universe, exoplanet atmospheres, and more to be unveiled.

View more: NASA scientists say images from the Webb telescope nearly brought them to tears

Fauci reports COVID rebound, says it’s “much worse” than initial illness

Fauci took a second round of Paxlovid, which is at odds with the FDA and CDC stance.

View more: Fauci reports COVID rebound, says it’s “much worse” than initial illness

Climeworks Sets Stage for World’s Next Largest Direct Air Capture Plant, Called ‘Mammoth’

Climeworks, a Switzerland-based technology company, is allotting construction parameters for its next massive Direct Air Capture (DAC) plant situated in Hellisheiði, Iceland. The firm announced the push yesterday, June 28, in a blog post that heralds a coming facility capable of capturing 36,000 tons of CO2 per year. Climeworks is aptly ...

View more: Climeworks Sets Stage for World’s Next Largest Direct Air Capture Plant, Called ‘Mammoth’

Can Computers Be Mathematicians?

Artificial intelligence has bested humans at problem-solving challenges like chess and Go. Is mathematics research next? Steven Strogatz speaks with mathematician Kevin Buzzard to learn about the effort to translate math into language that computers understand.

View more: Can Computers Be Mathematicians?

Laser writing may enable 'electronic nose' for multi-gas sensor

Alexander Castonguay (left), graduate student in the laboratory of Assistant Professor Lauren Zarzar, and Assistant Professor Huanyu “Larry” Cheng used this laser set up for their multi-disciplinary collaboration. Credit: Kelby Hochreither/Penn State. Environmental sensors are a step closer to simultaneously sniffing out multiple gases that could indicate disease or ...

View more: Laser writing may enable 'electronic nose' for multi-gas sensor

Researchers caution beachgoers ahead of white shark season

A shark is seen swimming across a sand bar on Aug. 13, 2021, from a shark watch with Dragonfly Sportfishing charters, off the Massachusetts’ coast of Cape Cod. Megan Winton, of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, said Wednesday, June 29, 2022, that July is when white sharks appear in ...

View more: Researchers caution beachgoers ahead of white shark season

Webb telescope: NASA to reveal deepest image ever taken of universe

A wonder of engineering, Webb is able to gaze further into the cosmos than any telescope before it thanks to its enormous primary mirror and its instruments that focus on infrared, allowing it peer through dust and gas. NASA administrator Bill Nelson said Wednesday the agency will reveal the ...

View more: Webb telescope: NASA to reveal deepest image ever taken of universe

Team reassesses greenhouse gas emissions from African lakes

Credit: CC0 Public Domain The emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4)—the most potent greenhouse gases—into the atmosphere from African lakes are reassessed in a study undertaken by the Laboratory of Chemical Oceanography (FOCUS research unit / Faculty of Science). While it was previously assumed that these lakes ...

View more: Team reassesses greenhouse gas emissions from African lakes

The rise and precarious reign of China’s battery king

Being mindful can improve your interactions with co-workers, new study finds

Cooking up a conductive alternative to copper with aluminum

First national guidelines established for integrated student support programs in K-12 schools

How the world's rivers are changing

The evolution of evolutionary developmental biology

Enzyme of bacterial origin promoted the evolution of longhorned beetles

Research team captures an elusive shadow: State-by-state gun ownership

Kerry Emanuel: A climate scientist and meteorologist in the eye of the storm

New survey suggests charismatic songbird's numbers have dramatically declined

A new design of sustainable cropping diversifications

Romantic partners can influence each other's beliefs and behaviors on climate change, new study finds

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News