We consider how an unmagnetized plasma responds to an incoming flux of energetic electrons. We assume a return current is present and allow for the incoming electrons to have a different transverse temperature than the return current. To analyze this configuration we present a nonrelativistic theory of the current-filamentation or Weibel instability for rigorously current-neutral and nonseparable distribution functions, . We find that such distribution functions lead to lower growth rates because of space-charge forces that arise when the forward-going electrons pinch to a lesser degree than the colder, backward-flowing electrons. We verify the growth rate, range of unstable wave numbers, and the formation of the density filaments using particle-in-cell simulations.
- Received 13 October 2005
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