Numerical simulation of auroral cyclotron maser processes

David C Speirs , Sandra L McConville , Karen Gillespie, Kevin Ronald, Alan D R Phelps , Adrian W Cross , Robert Bingham, Craig W Robertson, Colin G Whyte, Irena Vorgul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Results are presented from a numerical investigation of radiation emission from an electron beam with a horseshoe-shaped velocity distribution. This process is relevant to the phenomenon of auroral kilometric radiation (AKR) which occurs in the polar regions of the Earth's magnetosphere. In these regions of the auroral zone, particles accelerated into the increasing magnetic field of the Earth's dipole develop a horseshoe-shaped velocity distribution through conservation of magnetic moment. It has been shown theoretically that this distribution is unstable to a cyclotron maser instability. A 2D particle-in-cell (PIC) code model was constructed to simulate a scaled laboratory experiment in which an electron beam subject to significant magnetic compression may be studied and brought into resonance with TE modes of an interaction waveguide. Results were obtained for electron beam energies of 75–85 keV, magnetic compression factors of up to 30 and electron cyclotron frequencies of 4.42 and 11.7 GHz. At 11.7 GHz, beam–wave coupling was observed with the TE03 mode and an RF output power of 20 kW was obtained corresponding to an RF conversion efficiency of 1.3%. At 4.42 GHz, excitation of the TE01 mode was observed with an RF output power of 35 kW for a cyclotron-wave detuning of 2%. This corresponds to an RF conversion efficiency of 2.6%. In both cases PiC particle velocity distributions show the clear formation of a horseshoe-shaped velocity distribution and subsequent action of a cyclotron maser instability. The RF conversion efficiencies obtained are also comparable with estimates for the AKR generation efficiency.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPlasma physics and controlled fusion
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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