The Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre (SP²RC) at the University of Sheffield seeks to understand the nature of key plasma processes occurring in the solar interior and the atmosphere of the Sun from photosphere to corona. We have a particular interest in the various coupling mechanisms of these apparently distinct regions.

A large part of the energy flux released in the solar atmosphere travels into interplanetary space and impacts on the Earth's bow shock, energising the magnetosphere and influencing the composition, energy balance and dynamics of the ionosphere, plasmasphere and plasmapause.

The generation of energetic events in the convection zone and their propagation through the solar-terrestrial system is investigated by members of SP²RC by using mathematical modelling.

Our mathematical approach involves rigorous analytical work and the implementation of parallel computing (GRID technology) where results are continuously tested by making and using ground-base (eg SST, DSO) and high-resolution satellite observations (eg SOHO, TRACE, Hinode, SDO and IRIS).

SP²RC's research programme involves projects about:

  • Helioseismology

  • Convection zone and tachocline

  • Oscillations and dynamics in the solar atmosphere

  • Global coronal seismology

  • Magnetic reconnection

  • Absolute and convective Instabilities.

Our newest research areas are:

  • Space Weather. We want to improve our capability of forecasting solar eruptive events (flares and CMEs).

  • Mathematical modelling of PV systems. We have led development of a new modelling tool to optimise even more efficiently PV systems by taking into account the geographic position of the facility itself. We have worked towards the implementation of state-of-the-art climate modelling (working with the Department of Geography and the UK Met Office) and estimating the predicted savings. Continuing work is aimed at:

      1. improving the efficiency of individual cells by applying non-homogeneous and structured optical waveguides;

      2. fine-tuning the climate model's capabilities applicable to as wide as cites worldwide.

This project is in collaboration with the University of Warwick and Shandong University (China).

Main aims

  1. To understand the key physical processes governing the energy flow from the convective zone to the solar atmosphere and down to the Earth's upper atmosphere. This will be done using analysis of observational data, and through mathematical and computational modelling.

  2. To model the coupling of the various traditionally considered `distinct' regions of the Sun-Earth system (eg momentum transport through tachocline; coupling of global solar oscillations to the solar atmosphere; magnetic coupling from photosphere to corona and CMEs).

  3. To develop and update our mathematical and computational models, and our data analysis techniques to achieve the above objectives.

  4. To observationally verify our mathematical and numerical modelling.

  5. To incorporate advances made elsewhere and disseminate our results and knowledge base in order to keep the group's activities at the forefront of worldwide research.

  6. To offer high quality PhD and postdoctoral training.

  7. To contribute to the UK's leadership of the high-profile international solar research.

Key achievements

  • Discovery of Alfvén waves in the lower solar atmosphere.

  • Determination of the nature of coronal global EIT waves and initialisation of the field of global coronal seismology

  • Derivation and solution to the Klein-Gordon-Burgers equation

  • Establishing the role of magnetic fields in the amplitude and frequency modulations of the solar p-modes

  • Proving evidence (both observational and modelling) for the direct dynamic effects of photospheric wave leakage (eg p-modes) on atmospheric fine-scale structure formation (eg spicule formation and coronal wave excitation)

  • Mapping the rotation of the solar interior

  • Discovery of higher toroidal wave number (m=1) Torsional Alfven waves

  • Discovery of frequency-dependent MHD power spectra with application to the direct measurement of MHD waves transmission coefficients throughout the solar atmosphere. See our publication.

  • Discovery of new plasma instability, called sausage-pinch instability [SPI], under solar conditions. See our publication.

  • Discovery of transition region quakes (TRQs)

  • Discovery of new Space Weather predictability, a market-leading major progress

  • Analytical construction of 3D multiplex MHD waveguide model applicable to the highly stratified solar/stellar plasmas. See our publication. (see also Magnetohydrostatic equilibrium – I)