Date of Award

Spring 2001

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 2001 David Schlossberg. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Physics & Astronomy Department

First Advisor

Michael R. Brown


Ejection of energetic particles due to magnetic reconnection of plasmas occurs frequently throughout the known universe, and has the potential to explain many astrophysical phenomena. The plasma configuration in this experiment is a spheromak, which is a torus of plasma that possesses both significant toroidal and poloidal magnetic fields. The poloidal field lines wrap around through the hole of the torus, while the toroidal field lines encircle the hole of the torus. These fields sum to create a helical field winding around the torus. When anti-aligned magnetic field lines are brought together, the field lines spontaneously break and then reconnect in a lower energy state, converting the energy stored in the magnetic field lines into kinetic energy of particles In the region. The Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment (SSX) studies the magnetic reconnection of spheromaks by generating two spheromaks, translating them together, and allowing them to reconnect. Several diagnostics are used in order to correlate the escaping energetic particles, photons, and changing magnetic fields due to the reconnecting spheromaks. Experimental data are compared to several existing theoretical and numerical models, including the Sweet Parker model of reconnection, a simulation by Matthaeus et al., and instability-generated runaway particles. The experimental results are similar to those obtained by Matthaeus et al. The particle energy profile is fit to a thermalized distribution with some drift velocity. These models, simulations, and fits have provided a clearer view of the physical processes present during magnetic reconnection of plasmas.