Articles | Volume 18, issue 1
Research article
25 Jan 2011
Research article |  | 25 Jan 2011

Debye-scale solitary structures measured in a beam-plasma laboratory experiment

B. Lefebvre, L.-J. Chen, W. Gekelman, P. Kintner, J. Pickett, P. Pribyl, and S. Vincena

Abstract. Solitary electrostatic pulses have been observed in numerous places of the magnetosphere such as the vicinity of reconnection current sheets, shocks or auroral current systems, and are often thought to be generated by energetic electron beams. We present results of a series of experiments conducted at the UCLA large plasma device (LAPD) where a suprathermal electron beam was injected parallel to a static magnetic field. Micro-probes with tips smaller than a Debye length enabled the detection of solitary pulses with positive electric potential and half-widths 4–25 Debye lengths (λDe), over a set of experiments with various beam energies, plasma densities and magnetic field strengths. The shape, scales and amplitudes of the structures are similar to those observed in space, and consistent with electron holes. The dependance of these properties on the experimental parameters is shown. The velocities of the solitary structures (1–3 background electron thermal velocities) are found to be much lower than the beam velocities, suggesting an excitation mechanism driven by parallel currents associated to the electron beam.