Nonlinear saturation of kinetic ballooning modes by zonal fields in toroidal plasmas

G. Dong, J. Bao, A. Bhattacharjee, Z. Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Kinetic ballooning modes (KBMs) are widely believed to play a critical role in disruptive dynamics as well as turbulent transport in magnetic fusion and space plasmas. While the nonlinear evolution of the ballooning modes has been proposed as a mechanism for “detonation” in various scenarios such as the edge localized modes in tokamaks, the role of the kinetic effects in such nonlinear dynamics remains largely unexplored. In this work, global gyrokinetic simulation results of KBM nonlinear behavior are presented. Instead of the finite-time singularity predicted by ideal magnetohydrodynamic theory, the kinetic instability is shown to develop into an intermediate nonlinear regime of exponential growth, followed by a nonlinear saturation regulated by spontaneously generated zonal fields. In the intermediate nonlinear regime, rapid growth of localized current sheets, which can induce magnetic reconnection, is observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number010701
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics


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