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An Introduction to Plasma Physics and Its Space Applications, Volume 1

Fundamentals and elementary processes
Luis Conde


This introductory text is an expanded version of class notes and lectures that the author used to teach students of aerospace engineering and physics for several years. To make the subject more accessible, the book is divided into two parts. Firstly, the basic kinetic theory of neutral gases in equilibrium is introduced. The properties of ionized gases and plasmas (Debye length and plasma frequencies) are addressed in relation to their equilibrium states and the collisional processes at the microscopic level, and the physical description of short- and long-range collisions, and the more relevant collisions – elementary processes – between electron ions and neutral atoms or molecules are discussed. The second part of the book explores the physical description of plasmas as a statistical system of interacting particles and presents advanced concepts of kinetic theory, such as non-equilibrium distribution functions and Boltzmann's collision operator. The fluid transport equations for plasmas of electron ions and neutral atoms, and the hydrodynamic models of interest in space science and plasma technology, and the plasma production in the laboratory in the context of the physics of electric breakdown, are also discussed. Finally, among the myriad of aerospace applications of plasma physics, the low-pressure microwave electron multifactor breakdown and plasma thrusters for space propulsion are presented in two separate chapters.

About Editors

Luis Conde is a professor of physics at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM). He received his PhD in physics from Madrid Open University. He has held positions with the Spanish National Research Council and the Complutense University of Madrid, and he joined the UPM faculty of Aerospace Engineering as a member of the Department of Applied Physics. He is Fellow of the European Physical Society and has authored/co-authored 45 journal articles and 46 conference papers.

Table of Contents

1 The plasmas in space and in the laboratory
1.1 Plasmas in nature and in the laboratory
1.2 Solar plasmas
1.3 The Earth magnetosphere and ionosphere
1.4 Plasma physics and space technology
1.5 Commentaries and further reading
2 Ionized gases and plasmas
2.1 Collisions and elementary processes
2.2 Collision length and time scales
2.3 The plasma state of condensed matter
2.4 Additional considerations
2.5 Commentaries and further reading
3 Basic kinetic theory of neutral gases
3.1 The probabilistic description of gases
3.2 The Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution
3.3 Averaging over distributions
3.4 Rate constant and collision frequencies
3.5 The neutral gas in a force field
3.6 Equipartition of energy
3.7 Commentaries and further reading
4 The ideal plasma parameters
4.1 The ideal Maxwellian plasma
4.2 Elementary processes and steady equilibrium states
4.3 Energy thermalization
4.4 Electric field shielding
4.5 The plasma parameters
4.5.1 The Debye length
4.5.2 The plasma frequency
4.5.3 The plasma and coupling parameters
4.5.4 Magnetized plasmas
4.5.5 Magnetic shielding
4.6 Commentaries and further reading
5 Particle collisions in plasmas.
5.1 The differential cross section
5.2 The effect of velocity distributions
5.3 Elastic collisions in plasmas
5.3.1 Approximate cross section for short-range encounters
5.3.2 The collisions between charged particles
5.4 The momentum transfer cross section
5.5 Electric potential screening
5.6 Commentaries and further reading
6 The elementary plasma processes
6.1 The elastic collisions of electrons
6.2 The inelastic collisions of electrons
6.2.1 Excitation
6.2.2 Ionization
6.2.3 Electron losses
6.2.4 Electron and ion recombination
6.2.5 Electron attachment and detachment
6.3 The collisions of ions and molecules
6.4 Interaction of charges with solid surfaces
6.4.1 Thermionic electron emission
6.4.2 Secondary electron emission by electron impact
6.4.3 Secondary electron emission by ion impact
6.5 Commentaries and further reading
7 The physical models for plasmas
8 Elements of plasma kinetic theory
8.1 The Boltzmann equation
8.2 Relaxation model for molecular collisions
8.3 The Boltzmann collision integral
8.3.1 Derivation
8.3.2 Approximations
8.3.3 The Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution
8.4 Commentaries and further reading
9 Hydrodynamic description of plasmas
9.1 The moments of Boltzmann equation
9.1.1 The equation of continuity  
9.1.2 The momentum transport equation
9.1.3 The energy transport equation.
9.2 The plasma transport equations
9.3 The closure of the transport equations
9.4 The friction coefficients
9.5 Plasma sheaths
9.5.1 Bohm criterion
9.5.2 Child-Langmuir law
9.6 Commentaries and further reading
10 The Multipactor discharge
10.1 The electron multipactor
10.2 Resonant electron model
10.3 Commentaries and further reading
11 Introduction to plasma propulsion in space
11.1 Basic concepts
11.2 Optimal parameters
11.3 Commentaries and further reading
A The description of binary collisions
A.1 Kinematics of binary encounters
A.2 Evaluation of the scattering angle
A.3 Commentaries and further reading
B The substantial derivative
C The plasma kinetic equation
C.1 Klimontovich equation
C.2 Phase space averaging
C.3 Commentaries and further reading
List of Boxes
List of Figures


Paperback ISBN: 9780750329613

Ebook ISBN: 9781643271736

DOI: 10.1088/2053-2571/aae132

Publisher: Morgan & Claypool Publishers


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