Particle-in-cell simulations of plasma slabs colliding at a mildly relativistic speed

M E Dieckmann, P K Shukla, B Eliasson

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25 Citations (Scopus)


Plasmas collide at relativistic speeds in many astrophysical and high-energy density laboratory environments. The boundaries that develop between such plasmas and expand at much larger speeds than the ion sound speed cs are not well understood. Here, we address two identical electron–proton plasma slabs that collide with a relativistic speed and a Mach number v/cs of over 400. The collision speed, the plasma temperature and magnetic field are such that the growth rate of the two-stream instability exceeds that of all other instabilities. We model a planar turbulent boundary (TB) with one-dimensional (1D) and 2D particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations. We show that the boundary dissipates its energy via electron phase space holes (EPSHs) that accelerate electrons at the boundary to relativistic speeds and increase significantly the speed of some protons. Our results are put into the context of a dynamic accretion disc and the jet of a microquasar. It is shown that the accelerated electrons could contribute to the disc wind and to relativistic leptonic jets, and possibly to the hard radiation component of the accretion disc.
Original languageEnglish
Article number225
Number of pages21
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2006


  • particle-in-cell simulations
  • colliding plasma


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