Theory of Beam Plasma Discharge

  • K. Papadopoulos
Part of the NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (NSSB, volume 79)


Although the beam-plasma discharge (BPD) represents one of the first plasma physics phenomena, investigated as early as 1960, many of the quantitative aspects of the problem are only now beginning to emerge. This can be attributed partly to the fact that the understanding of the energization processes of the ambient plasma interacting with energetic electron beams required the theoretical development of strong turbulence, which was not accomplished till the middle 1970’s, and partly to the importance of BPD, for active electron beam experiments in space. On a superficial level BPD is nothing more than an R-F discharge, with the exception that the excited waves are electrostatic and near the ambient plasma frequency (ωe). This difference has profound consequences in the resulting absorption of the wave energy by the plasma particles. Under collisionless circumstances the energy absorption is by a few (VL%) electrons which are thus accelerated to high energies (~100’s eV). The ionization process is then dominated by the suprathermal tails rather than by the heating of the mainbody of the electrons. A proper description of BPD requires the following information:
  1. (1)

    The deposition rate of the beam energy to plasma waves, and the accompanying beam energy relaxation length.

  2. (2)

    The ratio of wave energy heating electrons by electron neutral collisions, and creating suprathermal tails by collapse (i.e., turbulent acceleration).

  3. (3)

    The physics and time scale of axial and radial confinement of the cold, energetic electrons and beam electrons (i.e., electrostatic, collisional or anomalous diffusion, vehicle motion, etc.).


Based on these we present a description of BPD, its properties and its accompanying wave emission phenomena and apply the results to laboratory situations and to beam plasma experiments from rockets and the space shuttle.


Energetic Electron Excited Wave Ambient Plasma Beam Plasma Suprathermal Electron 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Papadopoulos
    • 1
  1. 1.Science Applications Inc.McLeanUSA

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