What is it about?

Turbulent flows, like the swirling patterns seen when milk is poured into coffee, can exhibit complicated behavior. Surprisingly, seemingly delicate flow patterns can be found surviving in these chaotic environments. In our research, we examined turbulence in simulated models of plasmas at the edge of fusion reactors and found unexpectedly strong and robust vortex structures. Using tools from dynamical systems and chaos theory, we showed how these robustness of these vortices connect to the mathematical characteristics of the flow.

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Why is it important?

A major challenge in describing turbulence is the problem of intermittency, referring to the tendency for turbulent behavior to concentrate into sporadic structures or events. The presence of ordered flow structures thwarts attempts to describe turbulence through a single homogeneous, universal theory. Our research demonstrates how tools from other branches of mathematics can be used to understand the physics of turbulence and provide clarity to the study of these chaotic flows.


I personally love looking at videos of turbulent flows. I find them mesmerizing, like staring at a lava lamp but 10x better! Studying them is a different matter -- it was surprising to me how much work was required to describe the simple-looking vortices that show up in the extremely simplified plasma flows we studied. Even if the math or physics isn't your interest, I hope you at least find the figures in the paper interesting to look at!

Norman Cao
University of Texas at Austin

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Nearly integrable flows and chaotic tangles in the Dimits shift regime of plasma edge turbulence, Physics of Plasmas, September 2023, American Institute of Physics,
DOI: 10.1063/5.0158013.
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