Intensive Course about: Computational Methods for Kinetic Processes in Plasma Physics

Particle-in-cell numerical simulations for an electron-proton plasma jet with a larger radius. Credit: Nishikawa et al., Galaxies, 5(4), 58, 2017.

Instructor: Dr. Ken-Ichi Nishikawa, University of Alabama, Huntsville, SUA

When: 21-25 May 2018. Course hours:

Mo: 2pm-4pm;
 Tu: 10am-12am and 2pm-4pm; Wed: 2pm-4pm;
 Thu: 10am-12am and 2pm-4pm; Fri: 10am-12am

Where: ISS, Auditorium


This course is intended to provide students/researchers with basic concepts of computer simulations using a particle-in-cell (PIC) numerical code in order to understand kinetic processes in plasmas. PIC simulation is, in principle, an accurate method and provides the widest range of plasma effects. Nowadays, the computer power is powerful enough to perform reasonable 3-dimensional (3D) simulations to investigate realistic plasma dynamics. The course will cover the fundamental concepts of plasma simulation by performing small 3D electromagnetic codes with applications to relativistic jets. Starting with a brief introduction to plasma physics, the mathematics and physics behind the algorithms will be described. We will explore how PIC simulations reveal plasma behaviors as they are highly nonlinear phenomena. Some examples of how to run the PIC simulations will be also given.


  1. Plasma physics on computer (general description)
  2. Kinetic plasma simulations (nonphysical instability, approximate nonlinear analysis, plasma behavior, linear weighting, nonphysical effects)
  3. How PIC works (cold plasma dispersion, plasma dispersion function)
  4. Electrostatic codes (grid quantities, beat heating)
  5. Electromagnetic codes (hybrid oscillation, warm and unmagnetized plasmas)
  6. Finite-difference time-domain Maxwell solver on Yee grid: leapfrog algorithm
  7. Particle movers: Boris’s algorithm
  8. Conservative charge deposition method
  9. Boundary conditions (particles and fields)
  10. Simulations for astrophysical plasmas
  11. Recent work: (1) Weibel instability in relativistic jets (radiation, weighted beam) and (2) Reconnection (particle acceleration)

Reference: “Plasma Physics via Computer Simulation (Series in Plasma Physics)”, C.K. Birdsall & A.B. Langdon; Programs in the text book are written in Fortran.

Prerequisites: Elementary physics (Bachelor level)

Registration: Subscription for attending the course should be sent to Dr. Ioana Dutan <idutan[at]spacescience[dot]ro>, with your name, status (e.g., student, researcher) and affiliation, no later than May 15th 2018.

The event can be followed live on the ISS Facebook and YouTube channels.

List of participants

Photo Gallery:

This post is also available in: Romanian