Date of Award

Winter 2010

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Amitava Bhattacharjee


Plasma systems with dispersive waves are ubiquitous. Dispersive waves have the property that their wave velocity depends on the wave number of the wave. These waves show up in weakly as well as strongly coupled plasmas, and play a significant role in the underlying plasma dynamics. Dispersive waves bring new challenges to the computer simulation of nonlinear phenomena. The goal of this thesis is to discuss two computational studies of plasma phenomena, one drawn from strongly coupled complex or dusty plasmas, and the other from weakly coupled hydrogen plasmas.

In the realm of dusty plasmas, we focus on the problem of three-dimensional (3D) Mach cones which we study by means of Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations, assuming that the dust particles interact via a Yukawa potential. While laboratory and MD simulations have explored thoroughly the properties of Mach cones in 2D, elucidating the important role of dispersive waves in the formation of multiple cones, the simulations presented in this thesis represent the first 3D MD studies of Mach cones in strongly coupled dusty plasmas. These results have qualitative similarities with experimental observations on 3D Mach cones from the PK-3 plus project, which studies complex plasmas under microgravity conditions aboard the International Space station.

In the realm of weakly coupled plasmas, we present results on the application of non-oscillatory central schemes to Hall MHD reconnection problems, in which the presence of dispersive whistler waves presents a formidable challenge for numerical algorithms that rely on explicit time-stepping schemes. In particular, we focus on the semi-discrete central formulation of Kurganov and Tadmor (2000), which has the advantage that it allow for larger time steps, and with significantly smaller numerical viscosity, than fully discrete schemes. We implement the Hall MHD equations through the CentPACK software package that implements the Kurganov-Tadmor formulation for a wide range of hyperbolic problems, thus adding to the toolkit of applications accessible to the users of CentPACK. Our particular application focuses on Hall MHD reconnection in the presence of resistivity, electron inertia, and hyperresistivity as mechanisms that break field lines. For simulations of modest system size of the type presented in this thesis, all of these mechanisms exhibit rapid impulsive onset with X-point geometry.