Expansion of a mildly relativistic hot pair cloud into an electron-proton plasma

M. E. Dieckmann, A. Alejo, G. Sarri

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Abstract

The expansion of a charge-neutral cloud of electrons and positrons with the temperature 1 MeV into an unmagnetized ambient plasma is examined with a 2D particle-in-cell simulation. The pair outflow drives solitary waves in the ambient protons. Their bipolar electric fields attract electrons of the outflowing pair cloud and repel positrons. These fields can reflect some of the protons, thereby accelerating them to almost an MeV. Ion acoustic solitary waves are thus an efficient means to couple energy from the pair cloud to protons. The scattering of the electrons and positrons by the electric field slows down their expansion to a nonrelativistic speed. Only a dilute pair outflow reaches the expansion speed expected from the cloud's thermal speed. Its positrons are more energetic than its electrons. In time, an instability grows at the front of the dense slow-moving part of the pair cloud, which magnetizes the plasma. The instability is driven by the interaction of the outflowing positrons with the protons. These results shed light on how magnetic fields are created and ions are accelerated in pair-loaded astrophysical jets and winds.
Original languageEnglish
Article number062122
Number of pages8
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Volume25
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2018

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