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Title: A geometric theory of waves and its applications to plasma physics
Authors: Ruiz, Daniel Edward
Advisors: Dodin, Ilya Y
Contributors: Astrophysical Sciences—Plasma Physics Program Department
Keywords: geometrical optics
variational wave mechancis
wave ponderomotive dynamics
wave--wave interactions
Subjects: Physics
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Waves play an essential role in many aspects of plasma dynamics. For example, they are indispensable in plasma manipulation and diagnostics. Although the physics of waves is well understood in the context of relatively simple problems, difficulties arise when studying waves that propagate in inhomogeneous or nonlinear media. This thesis presents a new systematic wave theory based on phase-space variational principles. In this dissertation, waves are treated as geometric objects of a variational theory rather than formal solutions of specific PDEs. This approach simplifies calculations, highlights the underlying wave symmetries, and leads to improved modeling of wave dynamics. Specifically, this dissertation presents two important breakthroughs that were obtained in the general theory of waves. The first main contribution of the present dissertation is an extension of the theory of geometrical optics (GO) in order to include polarization effects. Even when diffraction is ignored, the GO ray equations are not entirely accurate. This occurs because GO treats wave rays as classical particles described by their position and momentum coordinates. However, vector waves have another degree of freedom, their polarization. As a result, wave rays can behave as particles with spin and show polarization dynamics, such as polarization precession and polarization-driven bending of ray trajectories. In this thesis, the theory of GO is reformulated as a first-principle Lagrangian wave theory that governs both mentioned polarization phenomena simultaneously. The theory was applied successfully to several systems of interest, such as relativistic spin-$1/2$ particles and radio-frequency waves propagating in magnetized plasmas. The second main contribution of this thesis is the development of a phase-space method to study basic properties of nonlinear wave--wave interactions. Specifically, a general theory is proposed that describes the ponderomotive refraction that a wave can experience when interacting with another wave. It is also shown that phase-space methods can be useful to study problems in the field of wave turbulence, such as the nonlinear interaction of high-frequency waves with large-scale structures. Overall, the results obtained can serve as a basis for future studies on more complex nonlinear wave--wave interactions, such as modulational instabilities in general wave ensembles or wave turbulence.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Plasma Physics

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