Sunday, January 1, 2012

A first course in plasma physics

I have taught a 1 credit introduction to plasma physics a few times and a 3 credit course a few times.  I have not found an introductory text book that I like so I have always taught the course from my own notes.  I have typically supplied printed handouts which cover perhaps as much as half of the course material.
It is not possible to cover everything that I might like in the 1 credit course.  My syllabus was typically:

1. particle balance, ambipolarity

2. energy balance and confinement time

3. the Debye length

4. the plasma frequency

5. Larmor orbits, cyclotron frequency, and cyclotron resonance heating

6. mean free path, crossections, collision frequency, diffusion, and diffusion across magnetic fields

7. fusion reactions, the Lawson conditions, breakeven, and ignition

8. particle drifts, EXB drift, grad B drift

9. magnetic mirrors (and the ionosphere)

10. closed magnetic systems, rotational transform, and equilibrium

11. plasma waves

12. minimum B and stability

Some of this follows my fusion energy review paper, J. Sing. Nat. Acad. Sci., 9, 71 (1980).
I am less sure what should be the coverage for a 3 credit course.  I have typically added things like:

13. A summary of the various plasma confinement systems and resulting fusion reactors. (Startng from something like J. R. Roth's review paper in IEEE Trans. on Plasma Science)

14. A summary of the various sorts of plasma sources. (Starting from something like my review paper in Physics Reports, Vol. 61, #5, June 1980)

15. Some discussion of plasmas in astrophysics.

16. A summary of plasma wave phenomena, instabilities, and their effect on plasma behavior and properties.

17. A discussion of various plasma diagnostics. (Starting from something like the chapter/paper on plasma diagnostics in my book "Twelve Papers" amazon # ASIN: B005SVVEYC)

18. (nonfusion) plasma applications and devices

You can't manage to cover all of these in a 3 credit course but I have picked from this list.

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