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Sütterlin, Robert (2010): Physics of Complex Plasmas.: Some fundamental problems.. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Physics
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Abstract

Physics of complex plasmas is a wide and varied field. In the context of this PhD thesis I present the major results from my research on fundamental properties of the plasma sheath, the plasma dust interaction, non-Hamiltonian dynamics, and on non-equilibrium phase transitions, using complex plasmas as a model system. The first chapter provides a short overview of the development of physics of Complex Plasmas. From fundamental plasma physics, properties of dust in plasmas, to the exceptional and unique features of complex plasmas. A summary of twenty years of research topics is also presented. This is followed by three chapters that illustrate publications based on experiments I did during my PhD. These publications, in my opinion, reflect nicely the large diversity of complex plasma research. • The investigation of nonlinear vertical oscillations of a particle in a sheath of an rf discharge was a simultaneous test of (pre-)sheath models and parameters. The nonlinear oscillations were shown to derive from a (strong) nonlinearity of the local sheath potential. They could be described quantitatively applying the theory of anharmonic oscillations, and the first two anharmonic terms in an expansion of the sheath potential were measured. On top of that we provided a simple experimentally, theoretically and mathematically based method that allows for in situ measurement of these coefficients for other experimental conditions. • The vertical pairing of identical particles suspended in the plasma sheath demonstrated some of the unique features that complex plasmas have as an open (non-Hamiltonian) system. Particle interaction becomes non-reciprocal in the presence of streaming ions. The symmetry breaking allows for mode-coupling of in plane and out of plane motion of particles. • Lane formation is a non-equilibrium phase transition. I summarize the main result of my papers on the dynamics of lane formation, i.e., the temporal evolution of lanes. This is followed by an outlook on my future research on non-equilibrium phase transitions, how they relate to our research of systems at the critical point, and how they allow us to test fundamental theories of charging of particles and the shielding of the resulting surface potential. Finally there is an appendix on the scaling index method. A versatile mathematical tool to quantify structural differences / peculiarities in data, that I used to define a suitable order parameter for lane formation.