The purpose-built linear plasma device, the MAGnetized Plasma Interaction Experiment (MAGPIE), has been constructed at the ANU to develop novel diagnostics and test materials under aggressive plasma conditions. This linear plasma device employs a combination of a high-power radio-frequency plasma source, a target chamber and a set of diagnostics for plasma and material analysis.
In 2017 we published a steady-state single fluid MHD model which describes the equilibrium of plasma parameters in a collisional, rotating plasma column with temperature gradients and a non-uniform externally applied magnetic field. The model, which solved force balance along and across the plasma, was constrained to data from Langmuir, electric and Mach probes in MAGPIE, and modelled well plasma parameter variation across and along the plasma.
An unexpected observation was that in the supersonic regime the axial flow profile is inverted, in other words the flow slows (rather than accelerates) towards the maximum magnetic field gradient region. This behaviour, together with the transition from sub- to supersonic flow, are interesting physics phenomena and may also have application to space propulsion physics.
In this project, we would explore the shock transition in detail, and include shock physics across the transition. A possible experimental outcome would be to identify conditions under which a shock might form, leading to the possibility of experimental verification. The project is well defined, and suitable as an Honours project (or an entree to a PhD) for students with an interest and skills in theoretical modelling and interpretation of data.