Fundamentals of Plasma Physics

Antonius Otto

Physics F626:

MWF 9:15-10:15

NS 136

Scope and Contents of the Course:

Compared to other fields in physics, plasma physics is a relatively young and expanding field with increasing importance for technical applications. It is the basis for the processes in space and astrophysical systems. The unique property of plasma physics is the collective behavior of charged particles which requires a self-consistent solution of particle dynamics and the electromagnetic field equations. Thus plasma physics demands the knowledge of electrodynamics as well as classical and statistical mechanics. The collective interaction of particles with electromagnetic fields is intrinsically nonlinear and is one of the most interesting and challenging areas of modern physics.

This plasma physics course will provide a systematic introduction and coverage of plasma physics. This includes a derivation of kinetic theory, collisions in kinetic plasma, Vlasov equations, the two fluid approach and one fluid (magnetohydrodynamics) equations. In these areas the course covers typical properties, like plasma waves, equilibria and stationary states, and plasma stability. The course will focus mostly on homogeneous plasmas and their properties thereby providing a basis for more advanced applications in the magnetospheric physics and advanced plasma physics classes.

Conduct of the Course:

Grading Policy:

A large portion of the course will be based on the textbook by Sitenko and Malnev, Plasma Physics Theory (Chapman and Hall, UK).

Supplementary material is taken from the texts by Nicholson, Introduction to Plasma Physics (Krieger Publ., '92), Krall and Trivelpiece, Principles of Plasma Physics (San Francisco Pr, '86), and by Baumjohann and Treumann, Basic Space Plasma Physics (World Scientific Pub Co, '96). Additional original literature will be provided as necessary.

In addition to analytical theory it is planned to incorporate some aspects of numerical simulation of plasma physics into the course. This serves to illustrates certain properties of plasmas and is particularly suited for nonlinear processes where analytical theory is limited.

Grading will be based on a final exam and on homework which will consist mainly of analytic problems. Some exercises in the course may make use of numerical methods. A midterm test is offered as an opportunity for students to asses their progress and understanding of the course material.

Homework: 65%

Final exam: 35%


Sitenko and Malnev, Plasma Physics Theory (Chapman and Hall, UK): Very systematic and complete coverage of plasma physics and currently probably the best textbook that is not out of print.

Nicholson, Introduction to Plasma Physics (Krieger Publ., '92): An excellent introductory text with complete coverage of basic plasma physics. Unfortunately this text is out of print but it is available in the Mather Library.

Krall and Trivelpiece, Principles of Plasma Physics, San Francisco Press (1986): Very detailed text on plasma physics with excellent general coverage of traditional plasma physics. Out of print but available in the Mather library.

Baumjohann and Treumann, Basic Space Plasma Physics, Imperial College Press (1997): A good introduction to many aspects of space plasma physics. The combination with the more advanced volume Advanced Space Plasma Physics by Treumann and Baumjohann provides a very thorough graduate level course in space plasma physics.

Plasma Physics - List of Contents

Basic Elements of the Physics of Charged Particles

Single Particle Motion


Two-Fluid Equations and Waves

Plasma Kinetic Equations and Collisions

Vlasov Equations: Equilibria, Waves Damping and Instability

Homework and Exams 2006

Homework 2
Homework 3
Homework 4
Homework 5
Homework 6
Homework 7
Homework 8
Homework 9
Homework 10
Homework 11
Homework 12

Final Exam

Solution 2
Solution 3
Solution 4
Solution 5
Solution 6
Solution 7
Solution 8
Solution 9
Solution 10
Solution 11

Final Exam

Antonius Otto 2006-11-08