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Radiation signature of the relativistic Kelvin-Helmoltz instability

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Richard Pausch
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We present a particle-in-cell simulation of the relativistic Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability (KHI) that for the first time delivers angularly resolved radiation spectra of the particle dynamics during the formation of the KHI. This enables studying the formation of the KHI with unprecedented spatial, angular and spectral resolution. Our results are of great importance for understanding astrophysical jet formation and comparable plasma phenomena by relating the particle motion observed in the KHI to its radiation signature. The innovative methods presented here on the implementation of the particle-in-cell algorithm on graphic processing units can be directly adapted to any many-core parallelization of the particle-mesh method. With these methods we see a peak performance of 7.176 PFLOP/s (double-precision) plus 1.449 PFLOP/s (single-precision), an efficiency of 96% when weakly scaling from 1 to 18432 nodes, an efficiency of 68.92% and a speed up of 794 (ideal: 1152) when strongly scaling from 16 to 18432 nodes.
Emerging new technologies in plasma simulations allow tracking billions of particles while computing their radiative spectra. We present a visualization of the relativistic Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability from a simulation performed with the fully relativistic particle-in-cell code PIConGPU powered by 18,000 GPUs on the USA's fastest supercomputer Titan [1].
For the relativistic Kelvin-Helmholtz instability (KHI), which occurs at shear interfaces between two plasma streams, we report results on the polarized radiation over all observation directions and frequencies emitted by the plasma electrons from ab initio kinetic simulations. We find the polarization of the radiation to provide a clear signature for distinguishing the linear phase of the KHI from its other phases. During the linear phase, we predict the growth rate of the KHI radiation power to match the growth rate of the KHI to a high degree. Our predictions are based on a model of the vortex dynamics, which describes the electron motion in the vicinity of the shear interface between the two streams. Albeit the complex and turbulent dynamics happening in the shear region, we find excellent agreement between our model and large-scale particle-in-cell simulations. Our findings pave the way for identifying the KHI linear regime and for measuring its growth rate in astrophysical jets observable on earth as well as in laboratory plasmas.