Collisionless plasma expansion into vacuum: Two new twists on an old problem

Arefiev, Alexey V.; Breizman, Boris N.
May 2009
Physics of Plasmas;May2009, Vol. 16 Issue 5, p055707
Academic Journal
The paper deals with a generic problem of collisionless plasma expansion into vacuum in the regimes where the expanding plasma consists of hot electrons and cold ions. The expansion is caused by electron pressure and serves as an energy transfer mechanism from electrons to ions. This process is often described under the assumption of Maxwellian electrons, which easily fails in the absence of collisions. The paper discusses two systems with a naturally occurring non-Maxwellian distribution: an expanding laser-irradiated nanoplasma and a supersonic jet coming out of a magnetic nozzle. The presented rigorous kinetic description demonstrates how the deviation from the Maxwellian distribution fundamentally alters the process of ion acceleration during plasma expansion. This result points to the critical importance of a fully kinetic treatment in problems with collisionless plasma expansion.


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