The localized deposition of the energy of a laser pulse, as it ablates a solid target, introduces high thermal pressure gradients in the plasma. The thermal expansion of this laser-heated plasma into the ambient medium (ionized residual gas) triggers the formation of non-linear structures in the collisionless plasma. Here an electron-proton plasma is modelled with a particle-in-cell simulation to reproduce aspects of this plasma expansion. A jump is introduced in the thermal pressure of the plasma, across which the otherwise spatially uniform temperature and density change by a factor of 100. The electrons from the hot plasma expand into the cold one and the charge imbalance drags a beam of cold electrons into the hot plasma. This double layer reduces the electron temperature gradient. The presence of the low-pressure plasma modifies the proton dynamics compared with the plasma expansion into a vacuum. The jump in the thermal pressure develops into a primary shock. The fast protons, which move from the hot into the cold plasma in the form of a beam, give rise to the formation of phase space holes in the electron and proton distributions. The proton phase space holes develop into a secondary shock that thermalizes the beam.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Nuclear Energy and Engineering