Electrical and Computer Engineering ETDs

Publication Date



The Rayleigh—Taylor instability causes mixing in plasmas throughout the universe, from micron-scale plasmas in inertial confinement fusion implosions to parsec-scale supernova remnants. The evolution of this interchange instability in a plasma is influenced by the presence of viscosity and magnetic fields, both of which have the potential to stabilize short-wavelength modes. Very few experimental observations of Rayleigh—Taylor growth in plasmas with stabilizing mechanisms are reported in the literature, and those that are reported are in sub-millimeter scale plasmas that are difficult to diagnose. Experimental observations in well-characterized plasmas are important for validation of computational models used to make design predictions for inertial confinement fusion efforts. This dissertation presents observations of instability growth during the interaction between a high Mach-number, initially unmagnetized plasma jet and a stagnated, magnetized plasma. A multi-frame fast camera captures Rayleigh—Taylor-instability growth while interferometry, spectroscopy, photodiode, and magnetic probe diagnostics are employed to estimate plasma parameters in the vicinity of the collision. As the instability grows, an evolution to longer mode wavelength is observed. Comparisons of experimental data with idealized magnetohydrodynamic simulations including a physical viscosity model suggest that the observed instability evolution is consistent with both magnetic and viscous stabilization. These data provide the opportunity to benchmark computational models used in astrophysics and fusion research.


Plasma Physics, Raleigh--Taylor Instability


Department of Energy

Document Type




Degree Name

Electrical Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Schamiloglu, Edl

Second Committee Member

Pihlstrom, Ylva

Third Committee Member

Hsu, Scott