The following research articles have been authored (or co-authored) by Theory Staff.


  • Exact collisional moments for plasma fluid theories
    D. Pfefferlé, E. Hirvijoki & M. Lingam, Phys. Plasmas 24, 042118 (2017), abstract
    [#s142: 20 Apr 2017]
    The velocity-space moments of the often troublesome nonlinear Landau collision operator are expressed exactly in terms of multi-index Hermite-polynomial moments of distribution functions. The collisional moments are shown to be generated by derivatives of two well-known functions, namely, the Rosenbluth-MacDonald-Judd-Trubnikov potentials for a Gaussian distribution. The resulting formula has a nonlinear dependency on the relative mean flow of the colliding species normalised to the root-mean-square of the corresponding thermal velocities and a bilinear dependency on densities and higher-order velocity moments of the distribution functions, with no restriction on temperature, flow, or mass ratio of the species. The result can be applied to both the classic transport theory of plasmas that relies on the Chapman-Enskog method, as well as to derive collisional fluid equations that follow Grad’s moment approach. As an illustrative example, we provide the collisional ten-moment equations with exact conservation laws for momentum- and energy-transfer rates.
  • Parametric decay of plasma waves near the upper-hybrid resonance
    I.Y. Dodin & A.V. Arefiev, Phys. Plasmas 2, 032119 (2017), abstract
    [#s143: 28 Mar 2017]
    An intense X wave propagating perpendicularly to dc magnetic field is unstable with respect to a parametric decay into an electron Bernstein wave and a lower-hybrid wave. A modified theory of this effect is proposed that extends to the high-intensity regime, where the instability rate $\gamma$ ceases to be a linear function of the incident-wave amplitude. An explicit formula for $\gamma$ is derived and expressed in terms of cold-plasma parameters. Theory predictions are in reasonable agreement with the results of the particle-in-cell simulations presented in a separate publication.
  • Extending geometrical optics: A Lagrangian theory for vector waves
    D.E. Ruiz & I.Y. Dodin, Phys. Plasmas 24, 055704 (2017), abstract
    [#s146: 16 Mar 2017]
    Even when neglecting diffraction effects, the well-known equations of geometrical optics (GO) are not entirely accurate. Traditional GO treats wave rays as classical particles, which are completely described by their coordinates and momenta, but vector-wave rays have another degree of freedom, namely, their polarization. The polarization degree of freedom manifests itself as an effective (classical) “wave spin” that can be assigned to rays and can affect the wave dynamics accordingly. A well-known manifestation of polarization dynamics is mode conversion, which is the linear exchange of quanta between different wave modes and can be interpreted as a rotation of the wave spin. Another, less-known polarization effect is the polarization-driven bending of ray trajectories. This work presents an extension and reformulation of GO as a first-principle Lagrangian theory, whose effective Hamiltonian governs the aforementioned polarization phenomena simultaneously. As an example, the theory is applied to describe the polarization-driven divergence of right-hand and left-hand circularly polarized electromagnetic waves in weakly magnetized plasma.
  • Ponderomotive dynamics of waves in quasiperiodically modulated media
    D.E. Ruiz & I.Y. Dodin, Phys. Rev. A 95, 032114 (2017), abstract
    [#s145: 14 Mar 2017]
    Similarly to how charged particles experience time-averaged ponderomotive forces in high-frequency fields, linear waves also experience time-averaged refraction in modulated media. Here we propose a covariant variational theory of this ponderomotive effect on waves for a general nondissipative linear medium. Using the Weyl calculus, our formulation accommodates waves with temporal and spatial period comparable to that of the modulation (provided that parametric resonances are avoided). Our theory also shows that any wave is, in fact, a polarizable object that contributes to the linear dielectric tensor of the ambient medium. The dynamics of quantum particles is subsumed as a special case. As an illustration, ponderomotive Hamiltonians of quantum particles and photons are calculated within a number of models. We also explain a fundamental connection between these results and the well-known electrostatic dielectric tensor of quantum plasmas.
  • Total fluid pressure imbalance in the scrape-off layer of tokamak plasmas
    R.M. Churchill, J.M. Canik et al., Nucl. Fusion 57, 46029 (2017), abstract
    [#s151: 10 Mar 2017]
    Simulations using the fully kinetic neoclassical code XGCa ( X-point included guiding- center axisymmetric) were undertaken to explore the impact of kinetic effects on scrape-off layer (SOL) physics in DIII-D H-mode plasmas. XGCa is a total-f, gyrokinetic code which selfconsistently calculates the axisymmetric electrostatic potential and plasma dynamics, and includes modules for Monte Carlo neutral transport. Previously presented XGCa results showed several noteworthy features, including large variations of ion density and pressure along field lines in the SOL, experimentally relevant levels of SOL parallel ion flow (Mach number ∼ 0.5), skewed ion distributions near the sheath entrance leading to subsonic flow there, and elevated sheath potentials (Churchill 2016 Nucl. Mater. Energy 1–6). In this paper, we explore in detail the question of pressure balance in the SOL, as it was observed in the simulation that there was a large deviation from a simple total pressure balance (the sum of ion and electron static pressure plus ion inertia). It will be shown that both the contributions from the ion viscosity (driven by ion temperature anisotropy) and neutral source terms can be substantial, and should be retained in the parallel momentum equation in the SOL, but still falls short of accounting for the observed fluid pressure imbalance in the XGCa simulation results.
  • Photon polarizability and its effect on the dispersion of plasma waves
    [#s147: 06 Mar 2017]
    High-frequency photons travelling in plasma exhibit a linear polarizability that can influence the dispersion of linear plasma waves. We present a detailed calculation of this effect for Langmuir waves as a characteristic example. Two alternative formulations are given. In the first formulation, we calculate the modified dispersion of Langmuir waves by solving the governing equations for the electron fluid, where the photon contribution enters as a ponderomotive force. In the second formulation, we provide a derivation based on the photon polarizability. Then, the calculation of ponderomotive forces is not needed, and the result is more general.
  • Kinetic simulations of scrape-off layer physics in the DIII-D tokamak
    R.M. Churchill, C.S. Chang et al., J. Nucl. Mat. Energy, abstract
    [#s148: 06 Mar 2017]
    Simulations using the fully kinetic code XGCa were undertaken to explore the impact of kinetic effects on scrape-off layer (SOL) physics in DIII-D H-mode plasmas. XGCa is a total-f, gyrokinetic code which self-consistently calculates the axisymmetric electrostatic potential and plasma dynamics, and includes modules for Monte Carlo neutral transport. Fluid simulations are normally used to simulate the SOL, due to its high collisionality. However, depending on plasma conditions, a number of discrepancies have been observed between experiment and leading SOL fluid codes (e.g. SOLPS), including underestimating outer target temperatures, radial electric field in the SOL, parallel ion SOL flows at the low field side, and impurity radiation. Many of these discrepancies may be linked to the fluid treatment, and might be resolved by including kinetic effects in SOL simulations. The XGCa simulation of the DIII-D tokamak in a nominally sheath-limited regime show many noteworthy features in the SOL. The density and ion temperature are higher at the low-field side, indicative of ion orbit loss. The SOL ion Mach flows are at experimentally relevant levels (Mi ∼ 0.5), with similar shapes and poloidal variation as observed in various tokamaks. Surprisingly, the ion Mach flows close to the sheath edge remain subsonic, in contrast to the typical fluid Bohm criterion requiring ion flows to be above sonic at the sheath edge. Related to this are the presence of elevated sheath potentials, eΔΦ/Te∼3−4, over most of the SOL, with regions in the near-SOL close to the separatrix having eΔΦ/Te > 4. These two results at the sheath edge are a consequence of non-Maxwellian features in the ions and electrons there.
  • Variational principles for dissipative (sub)systems, with applications to the theory of linear dispersion and geometrical optics
    I.Y. Dodin, A.I. Zhmoginov & D.E. Ruiz, Phys. Lett. A 381, 1411 (2017), abstract
    [#s150: 24 Feb 2017]
    Applications of variational methods are typically restricted to conservative systems. Some extensions to dissipative systems have been reported too but require ad hoc techniques such as the artificial doubling of the dynamical variables. Here, a different approach is proposed. We show that, for a broad class of dissipative systems of practical interest, variational principles can be formulated using constant Lagrange multipliers and Lagrangians nonlocal in time, which allow treating reversible and irreversible dynamics on the same footing. A general variational theory of linear dispersion is formulated as an example. In particular, we present a variational formulation for linear geometrical optics in a general dissipative medium, which is allowed to be nonstationary, inhomogeneous, anisotropic, and exhibit both temporal and spatial dispersion simultaneously.
  • Continuum kinetic and multi-fluid simulations of classical sheaths
    P. Cagas, A. Hakim et al., Phys. Plasmas 24, 022118 (2017), abstract
    [#s144: 21 Feb 2017]
    The kinetic study of plasma sheaths is critical, among other things, to understand the deposition of heat on walls, the effect of sputtering, and contamination of the plasma with detrimental impurities. The plasma sheath also provides a boundary condition and can often have a significant global impact on the bulk plasma. In this paper, kinetic studies of classical sheaths are performed with the continuum kinetic code, Gkeyll, which directly solves the Vlasov-Maxwell equations. The code uses a novel version of the finite-element discontinuous Galerkin scheme that conserves energy in the continuous-time limit. The fields are computed using Maxwell equations. Ionization and scattering collisions are included; however, surface effects are neglected. The aim of this work is to introduce the continuum kinetic method and compare its results with those obtained from an already established finite-volume multi-fluid model also implemented in Gkeyll. Novel boundary conditions on the fluids allow the sheath to form without specifying wall fluxes, so the fluids and fields adjust self-consistently at the wall. The work presented here demonstrates that the kinetic and fluid results are in agreement for the momentum flux, showing that in certain regimes, a multi- fluid model can be a useful approximation for simulating the plasma boundary. There are differences in the electrostatic potential between the fluid and kinetic results. Further, the direct solutions of the distribution function presented here highlight the non-Maxwellian distribution of electrons in the sheath, emphasizing the need for a kinetic model. The densities, velocities, and the potential show a good agreement between the kinetic and fluid results. However, kinetic physics is highlighted through higher moments such as parallel and perpendicular temperatures which provide significant differences from the fluid results in which the temperature is assumed to be isotropic. Besides decompression cooling, the heat flux is shown to play a role in the temperature differences that are observed, especially inside the collisionless sheath.
  • Zonal-flow dynamics from a phase-space perspective
    D.E. Ruiz, J.B. Parker et al., Phys. Plasmas 23, 122304 (2016), abstract
    [#s149: 16 Dec 2016]
    The wave kinetic equation (WKE) describing drift-wave (DW) turbulence is widely used in the studies of zonal flows (ZFs) emerging from DW turbulence. However, this formulation neglects the exchange of enstrophy between DWs and ZFs and also ignores effects beyond the geometricaloptics limit. We derive a modified theory that takes both of these effects into account, while still treating DW quanta (“driftons”) as particles in phase space. The drifton dynamics is described by an equation of the Wigner–Moyal type, which is commonly known in the phase-space formulation of quantum mechanics. In the geometrical-optics limit, this formulation features additional terms missing in the traditional WKE that ensure exact conservation of the total enstrophy of the system, in addition to the total energy, which is the only conserved invariant in previous theories based on the WKE. Numerical simulations are presented to illustrate the importance of these additional terms. The proposed formulation can be considered as a phase-space representation of the second order cumulant expansion, or CE2.
  • Dynamo-driven plasmoid formation from a current-sheet instability
    [#s152: 15 Dec 2016]
    Axisymmetric current-carrying plasmoids are formed in the presence of nonaxisymmetric fluctuations during nonlinear three-dimensional resistive MHD simulations in a global toroidal geometry. We utilize the helicity injection technique to form an initial poloidal flux in the presence of a toroidal guide field. As helicity is injected, two types of current sheets are formed from (1) the oppositely directed field lines in the injector region (primary reconnecting current sheet), and (2) the poloidal flux compression near the plasma edge (edge current sheet). We first find that nonaxisymmetric fluctuations arising from the current-sheet instability isolated near the plasma edge have tearing parity but can nevertheless grow fast (on the poloidal Alfven time scale). These modes saturate by breaking up the current sheet. Second, for the first time, a dynamo poloidal flux amplification is observed at the reconnection site (in the region of the oppositely directed magnetic field). This fluctuation-induced flux amplification increases the local Lundquist number, which then triggers a plasmoid instability and breaks the primary current sheet at the reconnection site. The plasmoids formation driven by large-scale flux amplification, i.e., a large-scale dynamo, observed here has strong implications for astrophysical reconnection as well as fast reconnection events in laboratory plasmas.
  • Magnetorotational Turbulence and Dynamo in a Collisionless Plasma
    Matthew W. Kunz, James M. Stone and Eliot Quataert,
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 235101 (2016), abstract
    [#s155: 01 Dec 2016]
    We present results from the first 3D kinetic numerical simulation of magnetorotational turbulence and dynamo, using the local shearing-box model of a collisionless accretion disk. The kinetic magnetorotational instability grows from a subthermal magnetic field having zero net flux over the computational domain to generate self-sustained turbulence and outward angular-momentum transport. Significant Maxwell and Reynolds stresses are accompanied by comparable viscous stresses produced by field-aligned ion pressure anisotropy, which is regulated primarily by the mirror and ion-cyclotron instabilities through particle trapping and pitch-angle scattering. The latter endow the plasma with an effective viscosity that is biased with respect to the magnetic-field direction and spatiotemporally variable. Energy spectra suggest an Alfvén-wave cascade at large scales and a kinetic-Alfvén-wave cascade at small scales, with strong smallscale density fluctuations and weak nonaxisymmetric density waves. Ions undergo nonthermal particle acceleration, their distribution accurately described by a κ distribution. These results have implications for the properties of low-collisionality accretion flows, such as that near the black hole at the Galactic center.
  • Validation and benchmarking of two particle-in-cell codes for a glow discharge
    Johan Carlsson, Alexander Khrabrov et al.,
    Plasma Sources Sci. Technol. 26, 014003 (2016), abstract
    [#s153: 28 Nov 2016]
    The two particle-in-cell codes EDIPIC and LSP are benchmarked and validated for a parallel-plate glow discharge in helium, in which the axial electric field had been carefully measured, primarily to investigate and improve the fidelity of their collision models. The scattering anisotropy of electron-impact ionization, as well as the value of the secondaryelectron emission yield, are not well known in this case. The experimental uncertainty for the emission yield corresponds to a factor of two variation in the cathode current. If the emission yield is tuned to make the cathode current computed by each code match the experiment, the computed electric fields are in excellent agreement with each other, and within about 10% of the experimental value. The non-monotonic variation of the width of the cathode fall with the applied voltage seen in the experiment is reproduced by both codes. The electron temperature in the negative glow is within experimental error bars for both codes, but the density of slow trapped electrons is underestimated. A more detailed code comparison done for several synthetic cases of electron-beam injection into helium gas shows that the codes are in excellent agreement for ionization rate, as well as for elastic and excitation collisions with isotropic scattering pattern. The remaining significant discrepancies between the two codes are due to differences in their electron binary-collision models, and for anisotropic scattering due to elastic and excitation collisions.
  • Generalized Kapchinskij-Vladimirskij Distribution and Beam Matrix for Phase-Space Manipulations of High-Intensity Beams
    Moses Chung, Hong Qin et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 224801 (2016), abstract
    [#s154: 23 Nov 2016]
    In an uncoupled linear lattice system, the Kapchinskij-Vladimirskij (KV) distribution formulated on the basis of the single-particle Courant-Snyder invariants has served as a fundamental theoretical basis for the analyses of the equilibrium, stability, and transport properties of high-intensity beams for the past several decades. Recent applications of high-intensity beams, however, require beam phase-space manipulations by intentionally introducing strong coupling. In this Letter, we report the full generalization of the KV model by including all of the linear (both external and space-charge) coupling forces, beam energy variations, and arbitrary emittance partition, which all form essential elements for phase-space manipulations. The new generalized KV model yields spatially uniform density profiles and corresponding linear self-field forces as desired. The corresponding matrix envelope equations and beam matrix for the generalized KV model provide important new theoretical tools for the detailed design and analysis of high-intensity beam manipulations, for which previous theoretical models are not easily applicable.