Diagnosing collisionless energy transfer using field-particle correlations: Vlasov-Poisson plasmas

Gregory G. Howes, Kristopher G. Klein, Tak Chu Li

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Turbulence plays a key role in the conversion of the energy of large-scale fields and flows to plasma heat, impacting the macroscopic evolution of the heliosphere and other astrophysical plasma systems. Although we have long been able to make direct spacecraft measurements of all aspects of the electromagnetic field and plasma fluctuations in near-Earth space, our understanding of the physical mechanisms responsible for the damping of the turbulent fluctuations in heliospheric plasmas remains incomplete. Here we propose an innovative field-particle correlation technique that can be used to measure directly the secular energy transfer from fields to particles associated with collisionless damping of the turbulent fluctuations. Furthermore, this novel procedure yields information about the collisionless energy transfer as a function of particle velocity, providing vital new information that can help to identify the dominant collisionless mechanism governing the damping of the turbulent fluctuations. Kinetic plasma theory is used to devise the appropriate correlation to diagnose Landau damping, and the field-particle correlation technique is thoroughly illustrated using the simplified case of the Landau damping of Langmuir waves in a 1D-1V (one dimension in physical space and one dimension in velocity space) Vlasov-Poisson plasma. Generalizations necessary to apply the field-particle correlation technique to diagnose the collisionless damping of turbulent fluctuations in the solar wind are discussed, highlighting several caveats. This novel field-particle correlation technique is intended to be used as a primary analysis tool for measurements from current, upcoming and proposed spacecraft missions that are focused on the kinetic microphysics of weakly collisional heliospheric plasmas, including the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS), Solar Probe Plus, Solar Orbiter and Turbulence Heating ObserveR (THOR) missions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number705830102
JournalJournal of Plasma Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • astrophysical plasmas
  • plasma nonlinear phenomena
  • space plasma physics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics


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