Multidimensional electron beam-plasma instabilities in the relativistic regime

Bret, A.; Gremillet, L.; Dieckmann, M. E.
December 2010
Physics of Plasmas;Dec2010, Vol. 17 Issue 12, p120501
Academic Journal
The interest in relativistic beam-plasma instabilities has been greatly rejuvenated over the past two decades by novel concepts in laboratory and space plasmas. Recent advances in this long-standing field are here reviewed from both theoretical and numerical points of view. The primary focus is on the two-dimensional spectrum of unstable electromagnetic waves growing within relativistic, unmagnetized, and uniform electron beam-plasma systems. Although the goal is to provide a unified picture of all instability classes at play, emphasis is put on the potentially dominant waves propagating obliquely to the beam direction, which have received little attention over the years. First, the basic derivation of the general dielectric function of a kinetic relativistic plasma is recalled. Next, an overview of two-dimensional unstable spectra associated with various beam-plasma distribution functions is given. Both cold-fluid and kinetic linear theory results are reported, the latter being based on waterbag and Maxwell-Jüttner model distributions. The main properties of the competing modes (developing parallel, transverse, and oblique to the beam) are given, and their respective region of dominance in the system parameter space is explained. Later sections address particle-in-cell numerical simulations and the nonlinear evolution of multidimensional beam-plasma systems. The elementary structures generated by the various instability classes are first discussed in the case of reduced-geometry systems. Validation of linear theory is then illustrated in detail for large-scale systems, as is the multistaged character of the nonlinear phase. Finally, a collection of closely related beam-plasma problems involving additional physical effects is presented, and worthwhile directions of future research are outlined.


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