H. Keith Moffatt

University of Cambridge


Election Year: 2008
Primary Section: 31, Engineering Sciences
Secondary Section: 32, Applied Mathematical Sciences
Membership Type: Foreign Associate

Research Interests

My main field of research has been dynamo theory, i.e. the theory of the spontaneous generation of magnetic fields in conducting fluids, with application to the magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) of planets, stars and galaxies. This has involved the study of MHD turbulence, the subject of my PhD thesis (1962), and the associated development of 'mean field electrodynamics' involving the 'helicity' of a turbulent flow. My own interests increasingly involved the topological aspects of MHD, and analogous topological aspects of vortex dynamics governed by the Euler equations of fluid dynamics. I have also made contributions to Stokes flow of viscous fluids, especially involving corner flows for which I described the universal sequence of eddies that can occur in the neighbourhood of any sharp corner (of angle less than about 147 degrees). With Konrad Bajer, I found the first example of a Stokes flow in a bounded region exhibiting chaos, important for the mixing of any transported scalar. I have also studied free surface effects, and found (with J.T.Jeong) an exact solution of the Stokes equations describing the 'cusp singularity' that forms at quite modest values of the capillary number in any region of free-surface convergence, a generic phenomenon of great importance in relation to the detailed mechanism whereby one fluid can mix into another. Most recently, I have worked on the theory of certain mechanical toys, providing illustrations of fundamental mechanical phenomena (dissipative instabilities, finite-time singularities, chiral behaviour, etc).

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