Repository logo

2D3V electromagnetic particle-in-cell simulations of plasmas having kappa velocity distributions.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



It is now well established that the kappa distribution is a more appropriate kinetic model for space plasmas than the Maxwellian distribution. In particular it possesses a power-law tail, frequently observed in space plasmas. The research presented in this thesis outlines the development of a two-dimensional electromagnetic particle-in-cell (PIC) simulation code, designed to run on general purpose graphics processing units (GPGPUs), and presents results from simulations of waves and instabilities obtained using it. While PIC simulations are not new, the majority have focussed on the old paradigm of initial particle loadings with a Maxwellian velocity distribution, or one of its variants. Distinguishing this research from previous PIC simulations is the use of the kappa distribution for the initial particle loading. To achieve this, a fast and e cient algorithm for generating multi-dimensional kappa distributed deviates was developed. The code is rst applied to the study of waves in an electron-ion plasma, in a stable equilibrium con guration with a constant background magnetic eld. Both species are modelled by isotropic (a) kappa and (b) Maxwellian velocity distributions. In each case, spectral analysis of the eld uctuations is performed, allowing mode identi cation. For parallel propagation, the maximum uctuation intensities follow the dispersion relations for the L and R modes, respectively, while those at perpendicular propagation follow the dispersion relations for the X, O and electromagnetic electron and ion Bernstein waves. The variation of wave intensity for the oblique angles is also investigated. For the kappa case, this yields new and important information presently unavailable by analysis alone. The e ects of the kappa distribution on wave intensity, as well as its e ect on the dispersion relations of the modes is discussed in detail. The second application is to the simulation of the electron temperature anisotropy driven whistler instability in an electron-ion plasma, where the electron species is modelled by the (a) bi-kappa and (b) bi-Maxwellian velocity distribution. For parallel propagation, the maximum eld uctuation intensities agree well with the dispersion relation for the whistler instability in a kappa plasma. While most of the wave intensity is in the parallel whistler mode, the oblique modes also contribute signi cantly to the overall uctuation spectrum, but their intensities vary with angle of propagation relative to the magnetic eld. The dependence of the growth rate on the index e of the electron kappa distribution is discussed in detail and compared with the well known Maxwellian results. Saturation of the instability via pitch angle scattering, reducing the electron temperature anisotropy, is observed.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.