Velocity distribution functions with an excess of superthermal particles are commonly observed in space plasmas, and are effectively modeled by a kappa distribution. They are also found in some laboratory experiments. In this paper we obtain existence conditions for and some characteristics of ion-acoustic solitary waves in a plasma composed of cold ions and kappa-distributed electrons, where kappa>3/2 represents the spectral index. As is the case for the usual Maxwell-Boltzmann electrons, only positive potential solitons are found, and, as expected, in the limit of large kappa one recovers the usual range of possible soliton Mach numbers, viz., 1 < M < 1.58. For lower values of kappa, modeling the presence of a greater superthermal component, the range of accessible Mach numbers is reduced. It is found that the amplitude of the largest possible solitons that may be generated in a given plasma (corresponding to the highest allowed Mach number for the given plasma composition) falls off with decreasing kappa, i.e., an increasing superthermal component. On the other hand, at fixed Mach number, both soliton amplitude and profile steepness increase as kappa is decreased. These changes are seen to be important particularly for kappa < 4, i.e., when the electrons have a "hard" spectrum.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Condensed Matter Physics