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On nonlinear Alfvén-cyclotron waves in multi-species plasma

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2010

Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, Max-Planck-Straße 2, D-37191 Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany (
Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, Max-Planck-Straße 2, D-37191 Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany (


Large-amplitude Alfvén waves are ubiquitous in space plasmas and a main component of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence in the heliosphere. As pump waves, they are prone to parametric instability by which they can generate cyclotron and acoustic daughter waves. Here, we revisit a related process within the framework of the multi-fluid equations for a plasma consisting of many species. The nonlinear coupling of the Alfvén wave to acoustic waves is studied, and a set of compressive and coupled-wave equations for the transverse magnetic field and longitudinal electric field is derived for waves propagating along the mean-field direction. It turns out that slightly compressive Alfvén waves exert, through induced gyro-radius and kinetic-energy modulations, an electromotive force on the particles in association with a longitudinal electric field, which has a potential that is given by the gradient of the transverse kinetic energy of the particles gyrating about the mean field. This in turn drives electric fluctuations (sound and ion-acoustic waves) along the mean magnetic field, which can nonlinearly react back on the transverse magnetic field. Mutually coupled Alfvén-cyclotron--acoustic waves are thus excited, a nonlinear process that can drive a cascade of wave energy in the plasma, and may generate compressive microturbulence. These driven electric fluctuations might have consequences for the dissipation of an MHD turbulence and, thus, for the heating and acceleration of particles in the solar wind.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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