Theses Doctoral

A Meshless Method for Magnetohydrodynamics and Applications to Protoplanetary Disks

McNally, Colin Powell

This thesis presents an algorithm for simulating the equations of ideal magnetohydrodynamics and other systems of differential equations on an unstructured set of points represented by sample particles. Local, third-order, least-squares, polynomial interpolations (Moving Least Squares interpolations) are calculated from the field values of neighboring particles to obtain field values and spatial derivatives at the particle position. Field values and particle positions are advanced in time with a second order predictor-corrector scheme. The particles move with the fluid, so the time step is not limited by the Eulerian Courant-Friedrichs-Lewy condition. Full spatial adaptivity is implemented to ensure the particles fill the computational volume, which gives the algorithm substantial flexibility and power. A target resolution is specified for each point in space, with particles being added and deleted as needed to meet this target. Particle addition and deletion is based on a local void and clump detection algorithm. Dynamic artificial viscosity fields provide stability to the integration.

The resulting algorithm provides a robust solution for modeling flows that require Lagrangian or adaptive discretizations to resolve. The code has been parallelized by adapting the framework provided by Gadget-2. A set of standard test problems, including one part in a million amplitude linear MHD waves, magnetized shock tubes, and Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities are presented. Finally we demonstrate good agreement with analytic predictions of linear growth rates for magnetorotational instability in a cylindrical geometry. We provide a rigorous methodology for verifying a numerical method on two dimensional Kelvin-Helmholtz instability. The test problem was run in the Pencil Code, Athena, Enzo, NDSPHMHD, and Phurbas. A strict comparison, judgment, or ranking, between codes is beyond the scope of this work, although this work provides the mathematical framework needed for such a study. Nonetheless, how the test is posed circumvents the issues raised by tests starting from a sharp contact discontinuity yet it still shows the poor performance of Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics.

We then comment on the connection between this behavior and the underlying lack of zeroth-order consistency in Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics interpolation. In astrophysical magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) and electrodynamics simulations, numerically enforcing the divergence free constraint on the magnetic field has been difficult. We observe that for point-based discretization, as used in finite-difference type and pseudo-spectral methods, the divergence free constraint can be satisfied entirely by a choice of interpolation used to define the derivatives of the magnetic field. As an example we demonstrate a new class of finite-difference type derivative operators on a regular grid which has the divergence free property. This principle clarifies the nature of magnetic monopole errors.

The principles and techniques demonstrated in this chapter are particularly useful for the magnetic field, but can be applied to any vector field. Finally, we examine global zoom-in simulations of turbulent magnetorotationally unstable flow. We extract and analyze the high-current regions produced in the turbulent flow. Basic parameters of these regions are abstracted, and we build one dimensional models including non-ideal MHD, and radiative transfer. For sufficiently high temperatures, an instability resulting from the temperature dependence of the Ohmic resistivity is found. This instability concentrates current sheets, resulting in the possibility of rapid heating from temperatures on the order of 600 Kelvin to 2000 Kelvin in magnetorotationally turbulent regions of protoplanetary disks. This is a possible local mechanism for the melting of chondrules and the formation of other high-temperature materials in protoplanetary disks.


  • thumnail for McNally_columbia_0054D_10876.pdf McNally_columbia_0054D_10876.pdf application/pdf 10.9 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Mac Low, Mordecai-Mark
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 17, 2012