It is generally accepted that our planetary magnetic field is one of many aspects making the Earth hospitable to life. Reversals in the Earth’s magnetic field are unpredictable, and the current observed changes in the Earth’s field make modern simulations and experiments important aspects of geophysics. Beyond the geodynamo, the solar dynamo magnetic field also has complex behavior that modulates solar storms. While simulations and experiments have made much progress, matching parameters with a planet or star is challenging due to the large range of length scales involved.
Mysteries remain about how turbulent motions of conductive media yields the dynamo effect. Dynamos induce currents generated by a seed field, reinforce it, and trigger an initial exponential instability in the magnetic field.
The equations of hydrodynamics governing these phenomena are notoriously difficult to solve (the Navier–Stokes existence problem is one of the open Millennium Prize Problems). Laboratory experiments to replicate them exist, but they are complicated and dangerous, involving large volumes of conducting fluids rotating at high speeds. Furthermore, they are far from the regime of interest to cosmic magnetic fields.
Recent work proposed to achieve magnetic turbulent regimes in highly-conducting hydrodynamic metals. It was shown that high conductivity in these materials can compensate for a small size and replicate astrophysical conditions in a small volume of rotating electron fluid. This project proposes to conduct such experiments to simulate cosmic dynamos and potentially shed light on foundational questions relevant to cosmology and life.