Electron-scale electrostatic solitary waves and shocks: the role of superthermal electrons
Centre for Plasma Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Queen’s University Belfast, BT7 1NN Northern Ireland, UK
Received: 20 December 2011
Received in final form: 23 February 2012
Published online: 26 April 2012
The propagation of electron-acoustic solitary waves and shock structures is investigated in a plasma characterized by a superthermal electron population. A three-component plasma model configuration is employed, consisting of inertial (“cold”) electrons, inertialess κ (kappa) distributed superthermal (“hot”) electrons and stationary ions. A multiscale method is employed, leading to a Korteweg-de Vries (KdV) equation for the electrostatic potential (in the absence of dissipation). Taking into account dissipation, a hybrid Korteweg-de Vries-Burgers (KdVB) equation is derived. Exact negative-potential pulse- and kink-shaped solutions (shocks) are obtained. The relative strength among dispersion, nonlinearity and damping coefficients is discussed. Excitations formed in superthermal plasma (finite κ) are narrower and steeper, compared to the Maxwellian case (infinite κ). A series of numerical simulations confirms that energy initially stored in a solitary pulse which propagates in a stable manner for large κ (Maxwellian plasma) may break down to smaller structures or/and to random oscillations, when it encounters a small-κ (nonthermal) region. On the other hand, shock structures used as initial conditions for numerical simulations were shown to be robust, essentially responding to changed in the environment by a simple profile change (in width).
Key words: Plasma Physics
© EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica and Springer-Verlag 2012