Numerical Study of Plasma Formation from Current Carrying Conductors
AuthorAngelova, Milena Angelova
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ABSTRACTThe problem of plasma formation from thick conductors driven by intense currents have practical applications in a number of high energy density (HED) fields of interest where complex interaction between conductor surfaces and megagauss magnetic fields is involved. These include: wire-array Z-pinches, magnetically accelerated flier plates, liner acceleration by magnetic field, ultrahigh magnetic field generators, high current fuses, magneto-inertial fusion (MIF), magnetically insulated transmission lines, as well as some astrophysical applications. Recent aluminum rod experiments driven by 1-MA Zebra generator at University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) have provided a benchmark for magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) modeling. The innovative `hourglass' and `barbell' load geometries used in the experiments made it possible to distinguish between plasma formation due to Ohmic heating, which can be studied numerically utilizing MHD codes, and plasma formation due to high electric fields, by introducing a large-diameter contact with the electrodes. This prevents nonthermal formation of plasma from being caused early in the current pulse by plasma at contacts, as occurs in simple straight-rod explosion experiments.The UNR megagauss rod experiments were modeled by employing the state-of-the-art radiation-magneto-hydrodynamic code MHRDR. Numerical simulations were performed for a wide range of rods, varying from 100 to 580 microns in radius. A "cold start" initiation was employed in order to create initial parameters close to the experimental conditions. Material properties of aluminum, crucial for such simulations, were modeled employing a set of well tested SESAME format equations-of-state (EOS), ionization, and thermal and electrical conductivity tables. The cold start initiation also allowed observation of the numerical phase transitions of the aluminum rod, from solid to liquid to vapor and finally to low density plasma as it is ohmically heated by the megaampere driving current.Numerical results indicate that plasma forms at the surface of the expanding low density aluminum vapor, when and where the magnetic field is about 2.8 MG. This result is in agreement with a previous simulation by Garanin, as well as with data from the UNR rod experiments.