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Studying Plasma Physics?

  1. Sep 16, 2016 #1
    I have a goal of learning basic plasma physics (perhaps from a book like Chen's?). Aside from finishing basic physics, what do I need to learn in order to learn plasma physics?

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2016 #2

    Charles Link

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    One thing that is used a lot in plasma physics is the fourier transform of the dielectric response function ## \tilde{\epsilon}(k,\omega) ##. Comes from ## D(x,t)=\int \epsilon (r-r',t-t') E(x',t') d^3x' dt' ## along with Fourier transforms ## \tilde{D}(k,\omega)=\tilde{\epsilon} (k,\omega)\cdot \tilde{E}(k,\omega) ## by use of the Fourier transform convolution theorem in 3 spatial dimensions plus the time domain. (Se e.g. Plasma Physics by Ichimaru if it is still in print). I would recommend getting a good handle on Fourier transform theory along with linear response theory in one dimension (of the continuous variety) i.e. ## \tilde{F}(\omega)=\int F(t) exp^{-i \omega t} dt ##. Also it is helpful to have a strong background in vector calculus and electromagnetic theory.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2016
  4. Sep 16, 2016 #3


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    Finish basic physics and basic math.
  5. Sep 16, 2016 #4
    It would seem imperative to know a fair amount of classical electrodynamics to gain a meaningful understanding of plasma theory. I recommend that you study the heck out of Feynman's second volume and perhaps a good undergrad E&M book like Marion or Corson and Lorraine (probably both are out of print by now). Plasma physics is an incredibly broad subject: it includes resistive and non-resistive magnetohydrodynamics, solid-state plasmas, dilute plasmas best treated by kinetic theory, wave propagation in the ionosphere, ...

    You should have an idea of which area is of greatest interest you before diving in too deeply. I took my first course in plasma dynamics concurrently with quantum theory and general relativity as a senior in college-- not sure I would have been ready before then.
  6. Sep 21, 2016 #5
    You should do some studying in Griffiths electrododynamics and some basic fluid mechanics (navier stokes) before going into Chen. Chen is the best place to start in plasmas.
  7. Sep 23, 2016 #6


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    I agree that Chen's book is a good place to start. In order to understand most of the book, you primarily need to know electrodynamics as the level of Griffiths (and you can skip special relativity if you wish). It also helps if you know elementary kinetic theory as can be found in basic "modern physics" books (Tippler, for example). Knowing fluid dynamics first isn't necessary, but wouldn't hurt.

    For the math, vector calculus, differential equations and elementary linear algebra will allow you to understand most of Chen. Being comfortable with Fourier analysis would make the waves chapter easier to interpret, but you can get a basic understanding withouta lot of knowledge. Contour integration is used some in chapter 7, but you can get a basic understanding of elementary plasma plasma physics without it.

    While Charles Link is correct in general, you can learn a lot of physics from Chen without really learning linear response formalism. If i were you i would just dive into Chen right after griffiths. Also, i don't recommend any of Ichimaru's books for an introduction of any aspect of plasma physics for a beginner. My kinetic theory class was loosely based on volume 1 of "statistical plasma physics", which is no good for a beginner; the earlier version of that book, titled "Basic principles of plasma physics" is much better, but still not a good introduction to the field; "plasma physics: ..." is mostly a collection of topics chapters that cover some advanced topics very early...

    I hope you enjoy the journey.

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