Fundamentals of Plasma Physics (Free PDF)

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This text is based on a course I have taught for many years to first year graduate and senior-level undergraduate students at Caltech. One outcome of this teaching has been the realization that although students typically decide to study plasma physics as a means towards some larger goal, they often conclude that this study has an attraction and charm of its own; in a sense the journey becomes as enjoyable as the destination. This conclusion is shared by me and I feel that a delightful aspect of plasma physics is the frequent transferability of ideas between extremely different applications so, for example, a concept developed in the context of astrophysics might suddenly become relevant to fusion research or vice versa.

Applications of plasma physics are many and varied. Examples include controlled fusion research, ionospheric physics, magnetospheric physics, solar physics, astrophysics, plasma propulsion, semiconductor processing, and metals processing. Because plasma physics is rich in both concepts and regimes, it has also often served as an incubator for new ideas in applied mathematics. In recent years there has been an increased dialog regarding plasma physics among the various disciplines listed above and it is my hope that this text will help to promote this trend.

1. Basic concepts
2. Derivation of fluid equations: Vlasov, 2-fluid,MHD
3. Motion of a single plasma particle
4. Elementary plasma waves
5. Streaming instabilities and the Landau problem
6. Cold plasma waves in a magnetized plasma
7. Waves in inhomogeneous plasmas and wave energy relations
8. Vlasov theory of warm electrostatic waves in a magnetized plasma
9. MHD equilibria
10. Stability of static MHD equilibria
11. Magnetic helicity interpreted andWoltjer-Taylor relaxation
12. Magnetic reconnection
13. Fokker-Planck theory of collisions
14. Wave-particle nonlinearities
15. Wave-wave nonlinearities
16. Non-neutral plasmas
17. Dusty plasmas
Bibliography and suggested reading
Appendix A: Intuitive method for vector calculus identities
Appendix B: Vector calculus in orthogonal curvilinear coordinates
Appendix C: Frequently used physical constants and formulae

Author Details
"Paul M. Bellan"

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