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PX392 Plasma Electrodynamics

Lecturer: Valery Nakariakov
Weighting: 7.5 CATS

Plasmas are 'fluids' of charged particles. The motion of these charged particles (usually electrons) is controlled by the electromagnetic fields which are imposed from outside and by the fields which the moving charged particles themselves set up. This module will cover the key equations which describe such plasmas. It will examine some predictions derived on the basis of these equations and compare these with results from laboratory experiments, with observations from in situ measurements of solar system plasmas and with remote observations of astrophysical systems. It will also be important to look at instabilities in plasmas and how electromagnetic waves interact with the plasmas.

The module should discuss particle dynamics in plasmas. The interaction of EM fields with a fully ionised fluid (plasma) should be considered in detail leading to ideas of magnetohydrodynamics.

At the end of the module, you should

  • Be familiar with single particle dynamics, guiding centre motion and adiabatic invariants, the plasma approximation and waves in plasmas
  • Understand the nature of bulk fluid-instabilities with application to confinement devices and astrophysics
  • Be familiar with micro-instabilities and their description via distribution functions
  • Understand the interaction of electromagnetic waves with plasmas.


  1. Single particle dynamics guiding centre motion and adiabatic invariants. The plasma approximation, waves in plasmas
  2. Propagation of EM waves through plasmas
  3. MHD description of plasmas and fluid like plasma instabilities
  4. Vlasov's equation and micro-instabilities

Commitment: 15 lectures

Assessment: 1.5 hour examination.

This module has a home page.

Recommended Text: N.A. Krall and A.W. Trivelpiece, Principles of Plasma Physics, San Fransisco Press/McGraw Hill;
R. O. Dendy. Plasma Dynamics, OUP 1990.

Leads to: Other modules on Plasmas