Date of Award

Spring 1994

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Roy B Torbert


A sounding rocket experiment, CRIT-II, involving the injection of shaped-charge barium in ionospheric plasma was conducted on May 7, 1989, to investigate Alfven's critical ionization velocity (CIV) hypothesis in space. The CRIT-II main payload was instrumented to make in situ measurements within the neutral barium beam. Among the detectors, UNH provided three energetic particle detectors and two photometers. The data from these detectors are presented. The typical features of the CIV effect were observed including plasma density enhancement, energy and momentum loss of a fast ion beam, excitation of plasma waves, and electron heating. It was found by optical observations that about 4% of the neutral barium was ionized. We believe that about one half of these barium ions were created by electron impact ionization--a CIV mechanism. The cross section for collisions between the barium atoms and the ionospheric oxygen ions was also calculated, assuming that the other half of ionizing barium ions were mainly generated by charge exchange, and found to be in the range from 1 $\times \ 10\sp{-17} cm\sp{-2}$ at a velocity of 4 km/s to 1 $\times \ 10\sp{-15} cm\sp{-2}$ at a velocity of 20 km/s. We also confirmed that the early observed ions were originally from the collisionally accelerated neutral oxygen which charge exchanges with the local oxygen ions. The early stage of electron heating was confirmed to be the result of lower hybrid instabilities excited by the precursor ion beam, using our quasi-linear model calculation. However, the wave spectrum during the passage of main streaming barium was found to be inconsistent with the lower hybrid instabilities proposed by current CIV theories. This could be the main reason for a relatively low ionization yield that one otherwise would expect from CRIT-II. A multi-fluid model of the wave dispersion relation for an unmagnetized beam with finite width in a magnetized plasma was also derived. We found that the nonuniform beam density effect could be the main driver which altered the plasma wave spectrum from the typical lower hybrid waves. A quasi-DC electric field model based on the momentum coupling between an ionizing barium beam and an ionospheric plasma was developed. We found that CIV is a self-limiting ionization process in a conical type of neutral beam, which may have caused the low ionization yield in most of the shaped-charge CIV experiments.