Particle-in-cell simulations of collisionless shock formation via head-on merging of two laboratory supersonic plasma jets

C. Thoma, D. R. Welch, S. C. Hsu
2013 Physics of Plasmas  
We describe numerical simulations, using the particle-in-cell (PIC) and hybrid-PIC code Lsp [T. P. Hughes et al., Phys. Rev. ST Accel. Beams 2, 110401 (1999)], of the head-on merging of two laboratory supersonic plasma jets. The goals of these experiments are to form and study astrophysically relevant collisionless shocks in the laboratory. Using the plasma jet initial conditions (density ~ 10^14-10^16 cm^(-3), temperature ~ few eV, and propagation speed ~ 20-100 km/s), large-scale simulations
more » ... f jet propagation demonstrate that interactions between the two jets are essentially collisionless at the merge region. In highly resolved one- and two-dimensional simulations, we show that collisionless shocks are generated by the merging jets when immersed in applied magnetic fields (B ~ 0.1-1 kG). At expected plasma jet speeds of up to 100 km/s, our simulations do not give rise to unmagnetized collisionless shocks, which require much higher velocities. The orientation of the magnetic field and the axial and transverse density gradients of the jets have a strong effect on the nature of the interaction. We compare some of our simulation results with those of previously published PIC simulation studies of collisionless shock formation.
doi:10.1063/1.4819063 fatcat:64an5duagnc6nfzclyitzdy3ni