Publications associated with Theoretical Astrophysics & Plasma Physics

Turbulent heating in an inhomogeneous magnetized plasma slab

Journal of Plasma Physics Cambridge University Press 84 (2018) 905840306

M Barnes, P Abiuso, W Dorland

Observational evidence in space and astrophysical plasmas with a long collisional mean free path suggests that more massive charged particles may be preferentially heated. One possible mechanism for this is the turbulent cascade of energy from injection to dissipation scales, where the energy is converted to heat. Here we consider a simple system consisting of a magnetized plasma slab of electrons and a single ion species with a cross-field density gradient. We show that such a system is subject to an electron drift wave instability, known as the universal instability, which is stabilized only when the electron and ion thermal speeds are equal. For unequal thermal speeds, we find from quasilinear analysis and nonlinear simulations that the instability gives rise to turbulent energy exchange between ions and electrons that acts to equalize the thermal speeds. Consequently, this turbulent heating tends to equalize the component temperatures of pair plasmas and to heat ions to much higher temperatures than electrons for conventional mass-ratio plasmas.

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