Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


This course introduces plasma phenomena relevant to energy generation by controlled thermonuclear fusion and to astrophysics. It will cover basic plasma properties and collective behavior, Coulomb collisions and transport processes, motion of charged particles in magnetic fields, plasma confinement schemes, MHD models, simple equilibrium and stability analysis, two-fluid hydrodynamic plasma models, and wave propagation in a magnetic field.

The course also introduces kinetic theory, the Vlasov plasma model, the relation between kinetic and fluid models, electron plasma waves and Landau damping.

Course Prerequisites

In order to register for 22.611J, 8.613J and 6.651J, you should have previously completed 6.014 or 8.07 and 18.04 or 18.075, with a grade of C or higher. Exceptions to this policy will require the permission of Prof. Parker, and will be granted on a case-by-case basis.


There is no required text for this course. There is, however, a list of recommended texts in the readings section.

Problem Sets

The weekly problem sets are an essential part of the course. Working through these problems is crucial to understanding the material. Problem sets will generally be assigned one week before they are due.


There will be one in-class (90 minute) mid-term quiz and a (3 hour) final exam. If you did well on the problem sets and exams, you should do well on the final exam.


The final grade for the course will be based on the following:

Homework 25%
Mid-term quiz 25%
Final exam 50%


1 Plasmas and their characterization Problem set 1 out
2 Basic plasma concepts: Debye shielding, plasma frequency, plasma parameter  
3 Charged particle motion in EM fields I

Problem set 1 due

Problem set 2 out

4 Charged particle motion in EM fields II  
5 Charged particle motion in EM fields III Problem set 2 due
6 Coulomb collisions: Cross-section and frequencies Problem set 3 out
7 Characteristic relaxation times  
8 Plasma fluid descriptions, two-fluid model

Problem set 3 due

Problem set 4 out

9 Plasma fluid descriptions, MHD model  
10 MHD equilibrium I

Problem set 4 due

Problem set 5 out

11 MHD equilibrium II  
12 MHD dynamics: Alfven waves Problem set 5 due
13 MHD dynamics: Stability  
  Mid-term quiz  
14 Transport I Problem set 6 out
15 Transport II  
16 Plasma waves I Problem set 6 due
17 Plasma waves II Problem set 7 out one day after Lec #17
18 Plasma waves III  
19 Plasma waves IV

Problem set 7 due one day after Lec #19

Problem set 8 out

20 Plasma kinetic description  
21 Relation of kinetic to fluid description I

Problem set 8 due

Problem set 9 out

22 Relation of kinetic to fluid description II  
23 Landau damping I Problem set 9 due one day after Lec #23
24 Landau damping II  
25 Makeup lecture: Z-function; Ion acoustic waves  
  Final exam