National Academies Press: OpenBook

Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications (1995)

Chapter:Collisional Relaxation of Nonneutral Plasmas

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Suggested Citation:"Collisional Relaxation of Nonneutral Plasmas." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.

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THEORETICAL AND COMPUTATIONAL PLASMA PHYSICS 162 by numerical simulations and theory, such as the production of very energetic electrons, were confirmed. Various control techniques were also demonstrated, including collisional suppression and laser beam incoherence. Progress in this area had a major impact on research in inertial fusion, leading to the use of shorter-wavelength lasers. Nonlinear Processes in Ionospheric Plasmas The interaction of high-power radio-frequency waves with plasmas, in particular the ionosphere, has stimulated the theoretical development of a coupled ion acoustic-Langmuir wave turbulence model, generically known as the Zakharov equations. Computational studies of this model have identified spontaneous creation of cavitons—small-scale density structures that self- consistently trap Langmuir waves. Recently, fluid representations of collisionless damping have become available that will further increase the sophistication of the Zakharov approach. Barium cloud releases in the ionosphere stimulated development of a new form of two-dimensional turbulence with key differences from two-dimensional hydrodynamic turbulence. Simulations based on these equations exhibited striking similarities to experimental releases. The equations were further applied to naturally occurring striations in the equatorial F-region and again enjoyed quantitative successes, especially with regard to the spectrum of turbulence. The cross-magnetic-field current of the equatorial electrojet drives E × B turbulence in the equatorial region of the ionosphere. The nature of this low- frequency turbulence has been studied by radar backscatter diagnostics and in situ rocket campaigns. The plasma is weakly ionized so that the basic equations are well formulated and robust. The cascade theory of turbulent eddies, in the direct interaction approximation, predicts the nature of the nonlinear interactions and the line-width of the frequency spectrum, and is in accord with observations and numerical computations. Collisional Relaxation of Nonneutral Plasmas The consequences of binary collisions in nonneutral plasmas have been predicted to depend dramatically on magnetic field strength. In particular, when the duration of a collision, based on the distance of closest approach, exceeds the cyclotron period, the magnetic moment becomes an adiabatic invariant and the relaxation of perpendicular velocities becomes exponentially small. Quantitative experimental confirmation of an exponentially small equipartition rate between parallel and perpendicular temperatures has been demonstrated.

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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