Exploring the nature of collisionless shocks under laboratory conditions

Research paper by A. Stockem, F. Fiuza, A. Bret, R. A. Fonseca, L. O. Silva

Indexed on: 13 Jan '14Published on: 13 Jan '14Published in: Physics - Plasma Physics


Collisionless shocks are pervasive in astrophysics and they are critical to understand cosmic ray acceleration. Laboratory experiments with intense lasers are now opening the way to explore and characterise the underlying microphysics, which determine the acceleration process of collisionless shocks. We determine the shock character - electrostatic or electromagnetic - based on the stability of electrostatic shocks to transverse electromagnetic fluctuations as a function of the electron temperature and flow velocity of the plasma components, and we compare the analytical model with particle-in-cell simulations. By making the connection with the laser parameters driving the plasma flows, we demonstrate that shocks with different and distinct underlying microphysics can be explored in the laboratory with state-of-the-art laser systems.