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Simulation of zonal flow excitation by drift mode turbulence : applications to tokamaks and the magnetopause

Trines, R M G M and Bingham, R and Dunlop, M W and Vaivads, A and Davies, J A and Silva, L O and Mendonça, J T and Shukla, P K (2008) Simulation of zonal flow excitation by drift mode turbulence : applications to tokamaks and the magnetopause. Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, 50 (12). ISSN 0741-3335

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Recently, we investigated the interaction between broadband drift mode turbulence and zonal flows near the edge of a region of magnetized plasma (Trines et al 2005 Phys. Rev. Lett. 94 165002). Our simulation results showed the development of a zonal flow through the modulational instability of the drift wave distribution, as well as the existence of solitary zonal flow structures about an ion gyroradius wide, drifting towards steeper relative density gradients. Both the growth rate of the turbulence and the particle/energy transport across the plasma boundary can be stabilized by adjusting the plasma density gradient. This spontaneous formation of solitary wave structures has also been found in Cluster satellite observations (Trines et al 2007 Phys. Rev. Lett. 99 205006), confirming our earlier theoretical predictions. We will discuss the consequences of our results for our understanding of the Earth's magnetopause, as well as for the study of zonal flows in tokamaks.