ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering

ECE 5160 Introduction to Space Plasmas


Spring 2014 textbook list

The Spring 2014 ECE textbook list is available online for students.

Current Prerequisites & Course Offering

For current prerequisites for a particular course, and to view course offerings for a particular semester, see the Virginia Tech Course Timetables.

Return to course list

ECE 5160 Introduction to Space Plasmas (3C)

Underlying physical processes in the space environment medium in terms of plasma physics and electrodynamics. Single particle motion, fluid and kinetic theory of plasmas, plasma waves and instabilities, diffusion and resistivity, and a brief introduction to nonlinear effects.

What is the reason for this course?

The near-earth space environment has profound effects on radio waves, electrical devices, power systems, satellites, space vehicles, as well as humans. As society becomes more dependent on technologies embedded in this environment, more understanding of physical properties and predictive capabilities in terms of 'space weather' will become crucial. This course in space plasmas provides the student with a description of the near-earth space environment as a medium in terms of plasma physics and electrodynamics. The course covers all important space plasma phenomena including single particle motion, plasma waves and instabilites, diffusion, resistivity, conductivity, collisional processes, as well as a brief introduction to nonlinear effects. Both fluid and kinetic treatments of space plasmas will be provided as well as a brief introduction to computational techiques for space plasmas.

Program Area: Electromagnetics.

Prerequisites: Graduate Standing.

Department Syllabus Information:

Major Measurable Learning Objectives:
  • describe a plasma medium and with both fluid and kinetic treatments.
  • derive motion of single charged particles in various electric and mangetic field configurations.
  • categorize the propagation characteristics of plasma waves with and without a background magnetic field present.
  • derive basic plasma instabilities with fluid and kinetic treatments.
  • derive diffusion, resistivity and other collisional effects in plasmas.
  • describe basic nonlinear effects in plasmas.
  • use basic computational techniques to study plasma dynamics.

Course Topics
Topic Percentage
1. Introduction: The concept and importance of plasmas in space science. 5%
2. Single particle motion and computational techiques. 15%
3. The fluid treatment of plasmas. 10%
4. Fluid treatment of waves in plasmas. 15%
5. Collisions and diffusion in plasmas 5%
6. Fluid treatment of plasma instabilities. 10%
7. The kinetic treatment of plasmas. 15%
8. Kinetic treatment of waves and instabilities in plasmas. 10%
9. Nonlinear behavior in plasmas and computational considerations. 15%

Return to course list