Center for Magnetic Self Organization

in Laboratory and Astrophysical Plasmas


The Center for Magnetic Self-Organization in Laboratory and Astrophysical Plasmas (CMSO) is a Physics Frontier Center established by the National Science Foundation. Its aim is to investigate basic problems in plasma physics, common to the laboratory and cosmos. Magnetic self-organization refers to the tendency of plasmas to rearrange spontaneously through processes that involve changing magnetic fields. Four phenomena form the focus for the Center, all of which can occur as part of the process of magnetic self-organization: dynamo, magnetic reconnection, angular momentum transport, and magnetic chaos and transport.

The Center brings together laboratory and astrophysical scientists (as well as experimentalists, theorists, and computational scientists) to work together on the common problems. Nine experiments are enlisted for this purpose:

University of Wisconsin- Madison :

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory:

Los Alamos National Laboratory:

Swarthmore College :

This set of experiments displays particularly robust magnetic self-organization, and will permit joint investigations of a phenomenon over a range of physical parameters.

Among the computational tools are two large-scale fluid codes: the FLASH code (the University of Chicago) written originally for astrophysical application and the NIMROD code (developed by researchers at many institutions, and sponsored by the US Department of Energy) written for laboratory application. Computation, plus analytic theory, is employed to connect experimental results to theory and astrophysics, as well as to examine new physical mechanisms. Collaborations have also been established with other institutions.

Set up with a funding authorization of five years, the Center was initiated in September, 2003 and renewed in 2008. Much of the established infrastructure - experimental and computational is maintained by the Department of Energy. Hence, the Center can be viewed as a partnership between the NSF and DOE.

A National Science Foundation Physics Frontier Center,
established in coordination with the Department of Energy.