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Magnetohydrodynamic Phenomena - an Introduction

Module PH2037

This module handbook serves to describe contents, learning outcome, methods and examination type as well as linking to current dates for courses and module examination in the respective sections.

Module version of WS 2017/8 (current)

There are historic module descriptions of this module. A module description is valid until replaced by a newer one.

available module versions
WS 2017/8WS 2016/7WS 2010/1

Basic Information

PH2037 is a semester module in German or English language at Master’s level which is offered in winter semester.

This Module is included in the following catalogues within the study programs in physics.

  • Specific catalogue of special courses for nuclear, particle, and astrophysics
  • Specific catalogue of special courses for Applied and Engineering Physics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for condensed matter physics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for Biophysics

If not stated otherwise for export to a non-physics program the student workload is given in the following table.

Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
150 h 30 h 5 CP

Responsible coordinator of the module PH2037 is Klaus Hallatschek.

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


The most important phenomena in ideal fluid dynamics,
magnetohydrodynamics and plasma physics will be explained in an
visually accessible way using illustrative examples and some
experiments. Examples are the magnetic fields in the solar system,
dynamo effect in the sun, plasma confinement in controlled nuclear
fusion experiments. Apart from plasma and astro physics, the basics of
fluid mechanics and electrodynamics are discussed and revisited:

  • solar wind
  • heliosphere
  • dynamo effect
  • magnetic forces
  • magnetic levitation
  • plasma equilibria
  • single particle picture / collective picture
  • instabilities
  • turbulence
  • turbulent convection
  • conservation laws
  • turbulent cascades

Learning Outcome

After successful participation in this module, the students will be able to:

  • understand the magneto hydrodynamic (MHD) equations, their main consequences, and their scope of application
  • explain the connection between the motion of individual particles and the MHD equations
  • discuss the conditions for stable magnetic equilibria plasmas 
  • describe the MHD instability mechanisms
  • understand the turbulence and turbulent transport in unstable MHD plasmas


No preconditions in addition to the requirements for the Master’s program in Physics.

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

Learning and Teaching Methods

In the thematically structured lecture the learning content is presented. With cross references between different topics the universal concepts in physics are shown. In scientific discussions the students are involved to stimulate their analytic-physics intellectual power.

In exercises the learning content is deepened and exercised using problem examples and calculations. Thus the students are able to explain and apply the learned physics knowledge independently.

To motivate and for visualization demonstration experiments are shown in the lecture.


Transparencies, black board work, exercises, question catalogue, movies, etc.


  • F.F. Chen: Introduction to Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, Springer, (2016)
  • R.J. Goldston & P.H. Rutherford: Introduction to Plasma physics, Routledge, (1995)
  • J. Wesson: Tokamaks, Oxford University Press, (1997)
  • U. Frisch: Turbulence: The Legacy of A.N. Kolmogorov, Cambridge University Press, (2010)
  • R.D. Hazeltine: The Framework of Plasma Physics, Westview Press, (2004)
  • D. Biskamp: Nonlinear Magnetohydrodynamics, Cambridge University Press, (1997)
  • E.M. Lifshitz, L.P. Pitaevskii, L.D. Landau: Physical Kinetics: Volume 10, Butterworth-Heinemann, (1981)

Module Exam

Description of exams and course work

There will be an oral exam of about 25 minutes duration. Therein the achievement of the competencies given in section learning outcome is tested exemplarily at least to the given cognition level using comprehension questions and sample calculations.

For example an assignment in the exam might be:

  • Describe the structure of the solar magnetic field in the heliosphere.
  • What magneto-hydrodynamic (MHD) instability mechanisms do you know?
  • How fast does the Rayleigh-Taylor-instability grow?
  • Under which conditions do stable magnetic equilibria in plasmas occur?

Exam Repetition

The exam may be repeated at the end of the semester.

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