Simulation studies of electron acceleration by ion ring distributions in solar flares

K. G. McClements, J. J. Su, R. Bingham, J. M. Dawson, D. S. Spicer

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Using a 2 1/2-D fully relativistic electromagnetic particle-in-cell code (PIC) we have investigated a potential electron acceleration mechanism in solar flares. The free energy is provided by ions which have a ring velocity distribution about the magnetic field direction. Ion rings may be produced by perpendicular shocks, which could in turn be generated by the super-Alfvénic motion of magnetic flux tubes emerging from the photosphere or by coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Such ion distributions are known to be unstable to the generation of lower hybrid waves, which have phase velocities in excess of the electron thermal speed parallel to the field and can, therefore, resonantly accelerate electrons in that direction. The simulations show the transfer of perpendicular ion energy to energetic electrons via lower hybrid wave turbulence. With plausible ion ring velocities, the process can account for the observationally inferred fluxes and energies of non-thermal electrons during the impulsive phase of flares. Our results also show electrostatic wave generation close to the plasma frequency: we suggest that this is due to a bump-in-tail instability of the electron distribution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-241
Number of pages13
JournalSolar Physics
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1990


  • electromagnetic particle-in-cell code
  • solar flares
  • electron acceleration
  • ion rings
  • wave generation


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