Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

Committee Chair

Earl Scime.


We report the first evidence of a laboratory double layer (DL) collapsing in the presence of an instability studied by Chakraborty Thakur et al. 1 with the use of time resolved laser induced fluorescence (LIF) studies. Higher time resolution studies then provided the first statistically validated proof of the correlation between the ion acoustic instability and a DL. Time-frequency analysis in the form of time resolved cross power spectra and continuous wavelet transforms were used to provide insight into beam formation. The implications of this work is that in the creation of strong DLs in expanding plasmas for plasma propulsion or other applications may be self-limited through instability growth. Over the past decade, experimental and theoretical studies have demonstrated the formation of stable, electrostatic, current-free double layers (CFDLs) in plasmas with a strong density gradient; typically a result of a divergent magnetic field. In this work, we present evidence for the formation of multiple double layers within a single divergent magnetic field structure. Downstream of the divergent magnetic field, multiple accelerated ion populations are observed through laser induced fluorescence measurements of the ion velocity distribution function. The formation of the multiple double layer structure is a strong function of the neutral gas pressure in the experiment. The similarity of the accelerated ion populations observed in these laboratory experiments to ion populations observed in reconnection outflow regions in the magnetosphere and in numerical simulations is also described. If ion energization during magnetic reconnection also results solely from acceleration in electric fields, these observations imply a prediction that the ion heating, i.e., the broadening of ion velocity distribution functions, reported in magnetic reconnection experiments is more accurately described by a superposition of differently accelerated ion populations. Therefore, the ion gheatingh rate during reconnection should scale as the square root of the cube of the charge per unit mass (q3/m)1/2 for ions with varying charge-to-mass ratios. A new RFEA probe was benchmarked on the low pressure CFDL plasmas produced in WVU HELIX-LEIA. This work was the result of collaboration between the University of Tromso (UiT) and WVU. LIF was used to confirm the RFEAs ability to detect a beam when one was present. The RFEA was also able to detect the presence of a beam when LIF techniques were limited by metastable quenching. The probefs limitations in dealing with ion focusing are discussed as well.