Diagnostic techniques for measuring suprathermal electron dynamics in plasmas (invited)

Rev Sci Instrum. 2008 Oct;79(10):10F501. doi: 10.1063/1.2966599.


Plasmas, both in the laboratory and in space, are often not in thermodynamic equilibrium, and the plasma electron distribution function is accordingly non-Maxwellian. Suprathermal electron tails can be generated by external drives, such as rf waves and electric fields, or internal ones, such as instabilities and magnetic reconnection. The variety and importance of the phenomena in which suprathermal electrons play a significant role explains an enduring interest in diagnostic techniques to investigate their properties and dynamics. X-ray bremsstrahlung emission has been studied in hot magnetized plasmas for well over two decades, flanked progressively by electron-cyclotron emission in geometries favoring the high-energy end of the distribution function (high-field-side, vertical, oblique emission), by electron-cyclotron absorption, by spectroscopic techniques, and at lower temperatures, by Langmuir probes and electrostatic analyzers. Continuous progress in detector technology and in measurement and analysis techniques, increasingly sophisticated layouts (multichannel and tomographic systems, imaging geometries), and highly controlled suprathermal generation methods (e.g., perturbative rf modulation) have all been brought to bear in recent years on an increasingly detailed, although far from complete, understanding of suprathermal electron dynamics.