Understanding the effect of sheared flow on microinstabilities

S. L. Newton, S. C. Cowley, N. F. Loureiro

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38 Scopus citations


The competition between the drive and stabilization of plasma microinstabilities by sheared flow is investigated, focusing on the ion temperature gradient mode. Using a twisting mode representation in sheared slab geometry, the characteristic equations have been formulated for a dissipative fluid model, developed rigorously from the gyrokinetic equation. They clearly show that perpendicular flow shear convects perturbations along the field at a speed we denote by Mcs (where cs is the sound speed), whilst parallel flow shear enters as an instability driving term analogous to the usual temperature and density gradient effects. For sufficiently strong perpendicular flow shear, M > 1, the propagation of the system characteristics is unidirectional and no unstable eigenmodes may form. Perturbations are swept along the field, to be ultimately dissipated as they are sheared ever more strongly. Numerical studies of the equations also reveal the existence of stable regions whenM < 1, where the driving terms conflict. However, in both cases transitory perturbations exist, which could attain substantial amplitudes before decaying. Indeed, for M »1, they are shown to exponentiate √M times. This may provide a subcritical route to turbulence in tokamaks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125001
JournalPlasma Physics and Controlled Fusion
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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