(Received 11 May 2004; accepted 28 September 2004; published online 23 November 2004)
Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) surface waves on liquid metal are studied theoretically and experimentally in the small magnetic Reynolds number limit. A linear dispersion relation is derived when a horizontal magnetic field and a horizontal electric current is imposed. Waves always damp in the deep liquid limit with a magnetic field parallel to the propagation direction. When the magnetic field is weak, waves are weakly damped and the real part of the dispersion is unaffected, while in the opposite limit waves are strongly damped with shortened wavelengths. In a table-top experiment, planar MHD surface waves on liquid gallium are studied in detail in the regime of weak magnetic field and deep liquid. A noninvasive diagnostic accurately measures surface waves at multiple locations by reflecting an array of lasers off the surface onto a screen, which is recorded by an intensified-CCD (charge-coupled device) camera. The measured dispersion relation is consistent with the linear theory with a reduced surface tension likely due to surface oxidation. In excellent agreement with linear theory, it is observed that surface waves are damped only when a horizontal magnetic field is imposed parallel to the propagation direction. No damping is observed under a perpendicular magnetic field. The existence of strong wave damping even without magnetic field suggests the importance of the surface oxide layer. Implications to the liquid metal wall concept in fusion reactors, especially on the wave damping and a Rayleigh–Taylor instability when the Lorentz force is used to support liquid metal layer against gravity, are discussed. © 2005 American Institute of Physics.
PACS: 47.35.+i, 52.40.Hf, 52.35.Py, 52.30.Cv, 52.70.Kz, 52.35.Bj, 47.65.+a
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