Collisionless shocks are often observed in fast-moving astrophysical plasmas, formed by non-classical viscosity that is believed to originate from collective electromagnetic fields driven by kinetic plasma instabilities. However, the development of small-scale plasma processes into large-scale structures, such as a collisionless shock, is not well understood. It is also unknown to what extent collisionless shocks contain macroscopic fields with a long coherence length. For these reasons, it is valuable to explore collisionless shock formation, including the growth and self-organization of fields, in laboratory plasmas. The experimental results presented here show at a glance with proton imaging how macroscopic fields can emerge from a system of supersonic counter-streaming plasmas produced at the OMEGA EP laser. Interpretation of these results, plans for additional measurements, and the difficulty of achieving truly collisionless conditions are discussed. Future experiments at the National Ignition Facility are expected to create fully formed collisionless shocks in plasmas with no pre-imposed magnetic field.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Condensed Matter Physics