Application to STFC for Consolidated Grant Support for the Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre (SP2RC)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Mathematics and Statistics


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, near-solar surface and the atmosphere of the Sun, from photosphere to corona, with particular attention devoted to 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 having impact of our daily human life. The generation of energetic events in the solar interior and near solar sub-surface region and their propagation through the solar interior-atmosphere-space plasma system will be investigated by using mathematical modelling and the analysis of latest available satellite and ground-based datasets. Particular attention is paid to the wave coupling processes in this complex and very dynamic physical system.

Our mathematical approach involves rigorous analytical work and the implementation of parallel computing (GRID and CUDA-enabled technology) where results will be tested and verified by making and using space (SOHO, TRACE, Hinode, SDO) and ground-based (Swedish Solar Telescope, Dunn Solar Telescope) observations. The proposed programme involves five scientific projects: 1) Magnetic features and local helioseismology; 2) New generation solar magnetoseismology: Opening avenues in solar physics; 3) The driver of coronal physics: 3D forward modelling from low solar atmosphere to corona; 4) Advanced theory of transverse oscillations of coronal loops; and 5) Multi-scale theory and self-organisation of the Sun and other stars. The programme also has a vibrant and vital Visiting Researchers project.

We request funding to cover salaries of the RAs, appropriate costs for research leadership/management and research time for the Principal Investigator and four Co-Investigators, funding for a special project-related observational PhD studentship in order to train a future generation of experts in the field, funding for a modest but essential visitor programme, for travel & subsistence, computing equipment and consumables.

Planned Impact

SP2RC's principal activity is to create knowledge through research. Through the transfer of this knowledge both internally and externally, we aim to improve our competitiveness and visibility through the enhanced use of knowledge, methods, and skills that reside within the Centre. SP2RC is made up of individuals (knowledge holders), each of whom has different capabilities and potentials - all of which are necessary to the success of the Centre as a whole.

Impact through knowledge transfer in this particular Consolidated Grant (outlined in Appendix 7: Pathways to Impact Plan) will take place whenever the findings, results, and expertise of the applicants and the named PDRA are disseminated locally or more widely. The dissemination takes place in different forms, including:

- Publishing material in refereed journals
- Presentations at national and international meetings and workshops
- Delivering seminars at national and international universities
- Presentation of specialised courses at various Summer Schools

The ideas, methods and results presented can either stimulate new concepts or be applied to new uses by other academics and experts in this area. Hence, in this CG we do not only acquire knowledge, but also proactively share it.

The dissemination of results also has a public interface. SP2RC members will also have impact through public outreach (see Appendix 7: Pathways to Impact - Public Outreach Activities of SP2RC), through printed (national and international newspapers, e.g. UK, Europe (Armenia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Russia), Brazil, India, USA, etc.) and non-printed media channels (TV and local, national and international radio stations,, We are also engaged with the dissemination of core ideas into primary and secondary schools in Sheffield as part of National Science week ( and through the Royal Observatory Greenwich ( We also took part by invitation in one of the exhibits "Meet the scientist'' organised by Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. We are proud of taking part in these activities and are committed to continue to be engaged in them during the period of the Consolidated Grant.

Recently we have also been invited four times by SET for Britain and present our results (2010 and 2011) in a suitable format for a general audience at the House of Lords and Commons Marquee, Westminster, where representatives both of the House of Commons and House of Lords of the Parliament took an active part and have engaged with our solar research. We consider this a major success as part of our Pathways to Impact and will continue to represent SP2RC's activities together with UK Solar Physics at future similar events.

Indirectly, other important parts of outreach and knowledge transfer by us are both through the top class training that is offered to our PhD students and RAs, and collaborating with a large number of eminent international visitors with whom all SP2RC members have links. The Centre has a truly international character and the research we carry out transcends linguistic barriers. It is highly anticipated that the named RA will take part in all of these carefully planned and designed activities during the run of the SG.

Methods and techniques relevant to our research proposed in this CG can be applied to some areas of industry, such as fusion reactor, tokamak, pattern recognition, etc. Whilst we are not directly working with any companies at present on the commercialisation of this research, it is highly hoped that through the dissemination and outreach activities we are carrying out that applications for our knowledge could be found in industry.


10 25 50
Description The identification and role of MHD waves in energising astrophysical plasmas.
Exploitation Route See the published papers.
Sectors Energy

Description Leverhulme International Networking Grant
Amount £109,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2014 
End 03/2018
Description Royal Astronomical Society travel grant
Amount £600 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Astronomical Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2012 
End 06/2012
Description Royal Astronomical Society travel grant
Amount £500 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Astronomical Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2011 
End 06/2011
Description KULeuven_Belgium 
Organisation University of Leuven
Department Department of Mathematics
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I provided the analytical study of nonlinear kink wave propagation in magnetic flux tubes
Collaborator Contribution They carried out the numerical study of nonlinear kink wave propagation in magnetic flux tubes
Impact We studied the nonlinearity effect on the kink wave propagation in magnetic flux tubes
Start Year 2009
Description Numerical modelling of wave-based coronal heating using resistive MHD 
Organisation Michoacan University of Saint Nicholas of Hidalgo
Department Institute of Physics and Mathematics
Country Mexico 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Using the code developed at the IMF to evolve plasmas with resistive MHD, we carried out a series of simulations to confirm that confined ejections of plasma were triggered assuming a physically consistent value of the resistivity. The structures showed the speed and height similar to those of Type II spicules observed in the solar surface. In order to approach a scenario even more similar to observations, we generalized the magnetic field configurations involving non-symmetric magnetic field loops. The simulations showed interesting scenarios with inclined spicules. Thus, a very important scientific result which we account with a model for the ejections with inclinations using resistive MHD (as opposed to the usual ideal MHD).
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provided the novel 3D resistive MHD code and run a number of successful numerical simulations. Also, they actively participate in discussions and papers preparation.
Impact We published one paper in ApJ : González-Avilés, J. J., Guzmán, F. S. and Fedun, V. Jet Formation in Solar Atmosphere due to Magnetic Reconnection The Astrophysical Journal, 2017. Another 2 papers currently at the final stage of preparation. We analyse the cases where the magnetic field strength of the two magnetic loops is equal and different. In the first case, with a symmetric configuration, the jets rise vertically, whereas in an asymmetric configuration the structure shows an inclination. With a number of simulations carried out under a 2.5D approach, we explore various properties of the excited jets, namely, inclination, lifetime, and velocity.
Start Year 2016
Description Partnership with UIB 
Organisation University of the Balearic Islands
Department Physics
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our expertise is in theoretical aspects of waves and oscillations in solar and space plasmas
Collaborator Contribution The expertise of partners is in numerical investigation of waves and oscillations in prominence plasmas
Impact We published a joint paper (see the paper by J. Terradas). I spent one month in 2009 as a guest of the group. We currently apply for a joint funding for an International Network funded by the Leverhulme Trust
Start Year 2009
Description St_Andrews 
Organisation University of St Andrews
Department Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided the theoretical consideration of damping of kink oscillations due to resonant absorption.
Collaborator Contribution They actively participate in the discussions on resonant absorption.
Impact We managed to study the resonant damping of kink oscillations in a system of two parallel magnetic tubes
Start Year 2009
Title SAC and SMAUG 
Description SAC solves the MHD equations on CPU. SMAUG solves the MHD equations on GPU 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Some other research groups use these codes successfully in the field. 
Description Researchers Night at the University of Sheffield 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Type Of Presentation Workshop Facilitator
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 4000 people from Sheffield and South Yorkshire attended more than 70 presentations, debates, laboratory tours, exhibitions, etc. The audience was general public of any age, including primary school children. Venues and topics were tailored for specific audiences.

The event had a wide impact on the perception of the university and its researchers upon the general public. Several AV material were produced and distributed to local and regional schools, libraries, etc.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012