Pair plasma instability in homogeneous magnetic guide fields

M. J. Pueschel (Corresponding author), R. D. Sydora, P. W. Terry, B. Tyburska-Pueschel, M. Francisquez, F. Jenko, B. Zhu

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Pair plasmas, collections of both matter and antimatter particles of equal mass, represent a paradigm for the study of basic plasma science, and many open questions exist regarding these unique systems. They are found in many astrophysical settings, such as gamma-ray bursts, and have recently also been produced in carefully designed laboratory experiments. A central research topic in plasma physics is instability; however, unlike their more common ion-electron siblings, pair plasmas are generally thought to be stable to cross field pressure gradients in homogeneous magnetic fields. It is shown here by means of kinetic full-f simulations that, when a pressure gradient is first established, the Gradient-driven Drift Coupling mode is destabilized and becomes turbulent. Force balance is eventually achieved by a combination of flattened pressure profiles due to turbulent transport and establishment of a magnetic field gradient, saturating the growth. During the unstable phase, key physics can be captured by a δf gyrokinetic description, where it is shown analytically and numerically that parallel particle motion results in a coupling of all electromagnetic field components. A fluid model derived therefrom accurately predicts linear eigenmodes and is used to resolve global profile effects. For laser-based electron-positron plasma experiments, prompt instability is predicted with growth times much shorter than plasma lifetimes. Similarly, growth rates are calculated for the planned APEX experiment as well as gamma-ray burst scenarios, suggesting that the instability may contribute to the early evolution of these systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102111
Number of pages9
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


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