Kinetic ion-acoustic solitary waves in collisional plasmas

Research paper by Oreste Pezzi, Francesco Valentini, Pierluigi Veltri

Indexed on: 20 May '14Published on: 20 May '14Published in: The European Physical Journal D


The excitation and the propagation of solitary waves of ion-acoustic nature are analyzed by means of kinetic Eulerian simulations, in both collision-free and collisional plasmas, composed of kinetic warm protons and linear Boltzmannian electrons. The process of soliton formation is discussed in detail through the description of the time evolution of the electrostatic potential and of the associated phase space portraits of the proton distribution function. We study the effects of collisions on the propagation of solitary waves, by modeling proton-proton interactions through the one-dimensional nonlinear Dougherty operator, which is a collisional operator of the Fokker-Planck type. We show how, in a case of non-negligible collisionality, short spatial scales in the electrostatic potential are dissipated in time and the phase space structures, observed in the distribution function in absence of collisions, are significantly smoothed out. Finally, by exploiting the analogy between ion-acoustic waves in neutral infinite plasma and Trivelpiece-Gould waves in nonneutral plasmas columns, a recipe to observe solitary structures in nonneutral plasma devices is proposed.