Zonal flow (plasma)

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In toroidally confined fusion plasma experiments the term zonal flow means a plasma flow within a magnetic surface primarily in the poloidal direction. This usage is inspired by the analogy between the quasi-two-dimensional nature of large-scale atmospheric and oceanic flows, where zonal means latitudinal, and the similarly quasi-two-dimensional nature of low-frequency flows in a strongly magnetized plasma.

Zonal flows in the toroidal plasma context are further characterized by

  • being localized in their radial extent transverse to the magnetic surfaces (in contrast to global plasma rotation),
  • having little or no variation in either the poloidal or toroidal direction—they are m = n = 0 modes (where and m and n are the poloidal and toroidal mode numbers, respectively),
  • having zero real frequency when analyzed by linearization around an unperturbed toroidal equilibrium state (in contrast to the geodesic acoustic mode branch, which has finite frequency).
  • Arising via a self-organization phenomenon driven by low-frequency drift-type modes, in which energy is transferred to longer wavelengths by modulational instability or turbulent inverse cascade.

See also


  • Diamond, P. H.; Itoh, S.-I.; Itoh, K.; Hahm, T.S. (2005). "Zonal flows in plasma—a review". Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion. 47 (5): R35–R161. Bibcode:2005PPCF...47R..35D. doi:10.1088/0741-3335/47/5/R01. 
  • Dewar, R. L.; Abdullatif, R. F. (2007). "Zonal flow generation by modulational instability". In Eds. Denier, J. P. Frontiers in Turbulence and Coherent Structures - World Scientific Lecture Notes in Complex Systems. Proceedings of the CSIRO/COSNet Workshop on Turbulence and Coherent Structures, Canberra, Australia, 10–13 January 2006. 6. and Frederiksen, J. S. Singapore: World Scientific. pp. 415–430. arXiv:physics/0610016Freely accessible. Bibcode:2007ftcs.conf..415D. doi:10.1142/9789812771025_0017. ISBN 978-981-270-393-4. 

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