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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Development of Multistep and Degenerate Variational Integrators for Applications in Plasma Physics
by Ellison, Charles Leland, Ph.D., Princeton University, 2016, 272; 10090246
Abstract (Summary)

Geometric integrators yield high-fidelity numerical results by retaining conservation laws in the time advance. A particularly powerful class of geometric integrators is symplectic integrators, which are widely used in orbital mechanics and accelerator physics. An important application presently lacking symplectic integrators is the guiding center motion of magnetized particles represented by non-canonical coordinates. Because guiding center trajectories are foundational to many simulations of magnetically confined plasmas, geometric guiding center algorithms have high potential for impact. The motivation is compounded by the need to simulate long-pulse fusion devices, including ITER, and opportunities in high performance computing, including the use of petascale resources and beyond.

This dissertation uses a systematic procedure for constructing geometric integrators — known as variational integration — to deliver new algorithms for guiding center trajectories and other plasma-relevant dynamical systems. These variational integrators are non-trivial because the Lagrangians of interest are degenerate - the Euler-Lagrange equations are first-order differential equations and the Legendre transform is not invertible. The first contribution of this dissertation is that variational integrators for degenerate Lagrangian systems are typically multistep methods. Multistep methods admit parasitic mode instabilities that can ruin the numerical results. These instabilities motivate the second major contribution: degenerate variational integrators. By replicating the degeneracy of the continuous system, degenerate variational integrators avoid parasitic mode instabilities. The new methods are therefore robust geometric integrators for degenerate Lagrangian systems.

These developments in variational integration theory culminate in one-step degenerate variational integrators for non-canonical magnetic field line flow and guiding center dynamics. The guiding center integrator assumes coordinates such that one component of the magnetic field is zero; it is shown how to construct such coordinates for nested magnetic surface configurations. Additionally, collisional drag effects are incorporated in the variational guiding center algorithm for the first time, allowing simulation of energetic particle thermalization. Advantages relative to existing canonical-symplectic and non-geometric algorithms are numerically demonstrated. All algorithms have been implemented as part of a modern, parallel, ODE-solving library, suitable for use in high-performance simulations.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Qin, Hong, Tang, William M.
Commitee: Dodin, Ilya, White, Roscoe
School: Princeton University
Department: Plasma Physics
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-B 77/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Applied Mathematics, Plasma physics
Keywords: Degenerate lagrangian, Guiding center, Hamiltonian, Non-canonical, Symplectic, Variational integrators
Publication Number: 10090246
ISBN: 978-1-339-59574-0
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