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Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 18, 41-47, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
25 Jan 2011
Debye-scale solitary structures measured in a beam-plasma laboratory experiment
B. Lefebvre1, L.-J. Chen1, W. Gekelman2, P. Kintner3, J. Pickett4, P. Pribyl2, and S. Vincena2 1Space Science Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA
2Basic Plasma Science Facility, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
3School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
4Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA
Abstract. Solitary electrostatic pulses have been observed in numerous places of the magnetosphere such as the vicinity of reconnection current sheets, shocks or auroral current systems, and are often thought to be generated by energetic electron beams. We present results of a series of experiments conducted at the UCLA large plasma device (LAPD) where a suprathermal electron beam was injected parallel to a static magnetic field. Micro-probes with tips smaller than a Debye length enabled the detection of solitary pulses with positive electric potential and half-widths 4–25 Debye lengths (λDe), over a set of experiments with various beam energies, plasma densities and magnetic field strengths. The shape, scales and amplitudes of the structures are similar to those observed in space, and consistent with electron holes. The dependance of these properties on the experimental parameters is shown. The velocities of the solitary structures (1–3 background electron thermal velocities) are found to be much lower than the beam velocities, suggesting an excitation mechanism driven by parallel currents associated to the electron beam.

Citation: Lefebvre, B., Chen, L.-J., Gekelman, W., Kintner, P., Pickett, J., Pribyl, P., and Vincena, S.: Debye-scale solitary structures measured in a beam-plasma laboratory experiment, Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 18, 41-47,, 2011.
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