The Collisionless Nature of High-Temperature Plasmas
An important property that distinguishes high temperature plasmas from normal fluids, even from conducting fluids such as liquid metals, is that the plasmas are to a first approximation collisionless. In a laboratory plasma, the mean-free-path between collisions can be much larger than the dimensions of the plasma. In space and astrophysical plasmas, the mean free path can easily exceed the dimensions of the structures of interest. The collisionless nature necessitates a kinetic treatment and introduces a variety of subtle new phenomena. For example, Landau damping (or growth) results from the resonant interaction of a wave with free streaming particles, a resonance that would be spoiled by collisions in a normal fluid. Also, the collisionless nature challenges us to find new descriptions for familiar phenomena. For example, what is the nature of a shock wave in a collisionless plasma?
KeywordsSolar Wind Plasma Wave Langmuir Wave Collisionless Shock Slow Shock
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