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Title: Shear dynamo, turbulence, and the magnetorotational instability
Authors: Squire, Jonathan
Advisors: Bhattacharjee, Amitava
Contributors: Plasma Physics Department
Keywords: Accretion Disks
Magnetic fields
Magnetorotational instability
Velocity shear
Subjects: Plasma physics
Theoretical physics
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The formation, evolution, and detailed structure of accretion disks remain poorly understood, with wide implications across a variety of astrophysical disciplines. While the most pressing question -- what causes the high angular momentum fluxes that are necessary to explain observations? -- is nicely answered by the idea that the disk is turbulent, a more complete grasp of the fundamental processes is necessary to capture the wide variety of behaviors observed in the night sky. This thesis studies the turbulence in ionized accretion disks from a theoretical standpoint, in particular focusing on the generation of magnetic fields in these processes, known as dynamo. Such fields are expected to be enormously important, both by enabling the magnetorotational instability (which evolves into virulent turbulence), and through large-scale structure formation, which may transport angular momentum in different ways and be fundamental for the formation of jets. The central result of this thesis is the suggestion of a new large-scale dynamo mechanism in shear flows -- the ``magnetic shear-current effect'' -- which relies on a positive feedback from small-scale magnetic fields. As well as being a very promising candidate for driving field generation in the central regions of accretion disks, this effect is interesting because small-scale magnetic fields have historically been considered to have a negative effect on the large-scale dynamo, damping growth and leading to dire predictions for final saturation amplitudes. Given that small-scale fields are ubiquitous in plasma turbulence above moderate Reynolds numbers, the finding that they could instead have a \emph{positive} effect in some situations is interesting from a theoretical and practical standpoint. The effect is studied using direct numerical simulation, analytic techniques, and novel statistical simulation methods. In addition to the dynamo, much attention is given to the linear physics of disks and its relevance to turbulence. This is studied using nonmodal stability theory, which both provides a highly intuitive connection between global domains and the commonly studied shearing box, and suggests that transient linear growth can often be more important than spectral instability. These realizations motivate the use of the quasi-linear models that are applied extensively throughout the turbulence and dynamo studies later in the thesis.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Plasma Physics

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