Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

Committee Chair

Paul A Cassak

Committee Co-Chair

Zachariah B Etienne

Committee Member

Leonardo Golubovic

Committee Member

Mark E Koepke

Committee Member

Earl E Scime


Tokamaks use magnetic fields to confine plasmas to achieve fusion; they are the leading approach proposed for the widespread production of fusion energy. The sawtooth crash in tokamaks limits the core temperature, adversely impacts confinement, and seeds disruptions. Adequate knowledge of the physics governing the sawtooth crash and a predictive capability of its ramifications has been elusive, including an understanding of incomplete reconnection, i.e., why sawteeth often cease prematurely before processing all available magnetic flux. In this dissertation, we introduce a model for incomplete reconnection in sawtooth crashes resulting from increasing diamagnetic effects in the nonlinear phase of magnetic reconnection. Physically, the reconnection inflow self-consistently convects the high pressure core of a tokamak toward the q=1 rational surface, thereby increasing the pressure gradient at the reconnection site. If the pressure gradient at the rational surface becomes large enough due to the self-consistent evolution, incomplete reconnection will occur due to diamagnetic effects becoming large enough to suppress reconnection. Predictions of this model are borne out in large-scale proof-of-principle two-fluid simulations of reconnection in a 2D slab geometry and are also consistent with data from the Mega Ampere Spherical Tokamak (MAST). Additionally, we present simulations from the 3D extended-MHD code M3D-C1 used to study the sawtooth crash in a 3D toroidal geometry for resistive-MHD and two-fluid models. This is the first study in a 3D tokamak geometry to show that the inclusion of two-fluid physics in the model equations is essential for recovering timescales more closely in line with experimental results compared to resistive-MHD and contrast the dynamics in the two models. We use a novel approach to sample the data in the plane of reconnection perpendicular to the (m,n)=(1,1) mode to carefully assess the reconnection physics. Using local measures of reconnection, we find that it is much faster in the two-fluid simulations, consistent with expectations based on global measures. By sampling data in the reconnection plane, we present the first observation of the quadrupole out-of-plane magnetic field appearing during sawtooth reconnection with the Hall term. We also explore how reconnection as viewed in the reconnection plane varies toroidally, which affects the symmetry of the reconnection geometry and the local diamagnetic effects. We expect our results to be useful for transport modeling in tokamaks, predicting energetic alpha-particle confinement, and assessing how sawteeth trigger disruptions. Since the model only depends on local diamagnetic and reconnection physics, it is machine independent, and should apply both to existing tokamaks and future ones such as ITER.