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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Multifluid magnetohydrodynamics of weakly ionized plasmas
by Menzel, Raymond, Ph.D., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2014, 129; 3630022
Abstract (Summary)

The process of star formation is an integral part of the new field of astrobiology, which studies the origins of life. Since the gas that collapses to form stars and their resulting protoplanetary disks is known to be weakly ionized and contain magnetic fields, star formation is governed by multifluid magnetohydrodynamics. In this thesis we consider two important problems involved in the process of star formation that may have strongly affected the origins of life, with the goal of determining the thermal effects of these flows and modeling the physical conditions of these environments.

We first considered the outstanding problem of how primitive bodies, specifically asteroids, were heated in protoplanetary disks early in their lifetime. Reexamining asteroid heating due to the classic unipolar induction heating mechanism described by Sonett et al. (1970), we find that this mechanism contains a subtle conceptual error. As original conceived, heating due to this mechanism is driven by a uniform, supersonic, fully-ionized, magnetized, T Tauri solar wind, which sweeps past an asteroid and causes the asteroid to experience a motional electric field in its rest frame. We point out that this mechanism ignores the interaction between the body surface and the flow, and thus only correctly describes the electric field far away from the asteroid where the plasma streams freely. In a realistic protoplanetary disk environment, we show that the interaction due to friction between the asteroid surface and the flow causes a shear layer to form close to the body, wherein the motional electric field predicted by Sonett et al. decreases and tends to zero at the asteroid surface. We correct this error by using the equations of multifluid magnetohydrodynamics to explicitly treat the shear layer. We calculate the velocity field in the plasma, and the magnetic and electric fields everywhere for two flows over an idealized infinite asteroid with varying magnetic field orientations. We show that the total electric field in the asteroid may either be of comparable strength to the electric field predicted by Sonett et al. or vanish depending on the magnetic field geometry. We include the effects of dust grains in the gas and calculate the heating rates in the plasma flow due to ion-neutral scattering and viscous dissipation. We term this newly discovered heating mechanism “electrodynamic heating”, use measurements of asteroid electrical conductivities to estimate the upper limits of the possible heating rates and amount of thermal energy that can be deposited in the solid body, and compare these to the heating produced by the decay of radioactive nuclei like Al26.

For the second problem we modeled molecular line emission from time-dependent multifluid MHD shock waves in star-forming regions. By incorporating realistic radiative cooling by CO and H2 into the numerical method developed by Ciolek & Roberge (2013), we present the only current models of truly time-dependent multifluid MHD shock waves in weakly-ionized plasmas. Using the physical conditions determined by our models, we present predictions of molecular emission in the form of excitation diagrams, which can be compared to observations of protostellar outflows in order to trace the physical conditions of these environments. Current work focuses on creating models for varying initial conditions and shock ages, which are and will be the subject of several in progress studies of observed molecular outflows and will provide further insight into the physics and chemistry of these flows.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Roberge, Wayne
Commitee: Herron, Isom, Napolitano, Jim, Persans, Peter
School: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Department: Physics
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-B 75/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Astrophysics, Astronomy, Electromagnetics, Plasma physics
Keywords: Astrobiology, Magnetohydrodynamics, Protoplanetary disks, Protostellar outflows
Publication Number: 3630022
ISBN: 978-1-321-07626-4
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