Super-Gaussian transport theory and the field-generating thermal instability in laser–plasmas

J J Bissell, C P Ridgers, R J Kingham

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Inverse bremsstrahlung (IB) heating is known to distort the electron distribution function in laser–plasmas from a Gaussian towards a super-Gaussian, thereby modifying the equations of classical transport theory (Ridgers et al 2008 Phys. Plasmas 15 092311). Here we explore these modified equations, demonstrating that super-Gaussian effects both suppress traditional transport processes, while simultaneously introducing new effects, such as isothermal (anomalous Nernst) magnetic field advection up gradients in the electron number density ne, which we associate with a novel heat-flow qn∝∇ne. Suppression of classical phenomena is shown to be most pronounced in the limit of low Hall-parameter χ, in which case the Nernst effect is reduced by a factor of five, the ∇Te × ∇ne field generation mechanism by ~30% (where Te is the electron temperature), and the diffusive and Righi–Leduc heat-flows by ~80 and ~90% respectively. The new isothermal field advection phenomenon and associated density-gradient driven heat-flux qn are checked against kinetic simulation using the Vlasov–Fokker–Planck code impact, and interpreted in relation to the underlying super-Gaussian distribution through simplified kinetic analysis. Given such strong inhibition of transport at low χ, we consider the impact of IB on the seeding and evolution of magnetic fields (in otherwise un-magnetized conditions) by examining the well-known field-generating thermal instability in the light of super-Gaussian transport theory (Tidman and Shanny 1974 Phys. Fluids 12 1207). Estimates based on conditions in an inertial confinement fusion (ICF) hohlraum suggest that super-Gaussian effects can reduce the growth-rate of the instability by gsim80%. This result may be important for ICF experiments, since by increasing the strength of IB heating it would appear possible to inhibit the spontaneous generation of large magnetic fields.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)025017
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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