Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

John A. Goree

First Committee Member

Frederick N Skiff

Second Committee Member

Robert L Merlino

Third Committee Member

Gregory Howes

Fourth Committee Member

Albert Ratner


In laboratory experiments, I study strongly-coupled dusty plasma levitated in a glow-discharge plasma. Dusty plasma is an arrangement of small dust particles in a plasma background of electrons, ions, and neutral gas. The dust particles are negatively charged because they collect electrons and ions from the background plasma. Depending on the experimental setup, the plasma's electric field can help to balance the dust particles against gravity. The high dust charge causes dust particles to repel each other, while confinement forces prevent their escape. The dust particles cannot easily move past one another, and instead organize themselves into highly-ordered structures. The neutral gas also plays a key role in these experiments. Depending on the relative motion between gas and dust particles, the neutral gas can either impede dust motion or it can drive the dust into motion.

In this thesis, I report the findings of three separate experiments. In the first experiment, I use a spherically-shaped dusty plasma (Yukawa ball) as an indicator of a flow of neutral gas, called thermal creep flow. In the second and third experiments, I study naturally occurring dust-density waves, which propagate within the volume of a dusty plasma that has many horizontal layers.

In Ch.2 of this thesis, I study thermal creep flow (TCF), which is a flow of gas driven by a temperature gradient along a solid boundary. Stripes on a glass box are heated by laser beam absorption, leading to both TCF and a thermophoretic force. A stirring motion of the dust particle suspension is observed. By eliminating all other explanations for this motion, I conclude that TCF at the boundary couples by drag to the bulk gas, causing the bulk gas to flow, thereby stirring the suspension of dust particles. This result provides an experimental verification that TCF in the slip-flow regime causes steady-state gas flow in a confined volume.

In Ch.3, I observe the growth of a naturally occurring dust-density wave (DDW) using high-speed imaging. This low-frequency wave (∼ 25 Hz) grows in amplitude as it propagates downward through a dusty plasma. I measure the wave's linear growth rate using a phase-sensitive analysis method. For the conditions studied here, the growth rate increases as gas pressure decreases. At a critical gas pressure that I observe, a balance between an ion-flow instability and dissipation by neutral gas drag determines a threshold for wave propagation. A linear dispersion relation is derived, taking into account effects of strong coupling, to compare to the experiment.

In Ch.4, I observe the development of nonlinearity in the naturally occurring dust-density wave by measuring harmonics of the fundamental. Using high-speed imaging, I measure amplitudes, wave numbers and growth rates for the fundamental and its harmonics. The amplitudes of the harmonics exhibit a strong exponential increase with diminishing gas pressure, and they saturate at lower gas pressures. My measurements show that the wave numbers and growth rates of harmonics are near integer multiples of the fundamental.


dust, gas flow, growth, plasma, thermal creep, wave


xii, 73 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 60-73).


Copyright 2010 Timothy McGuire Flanagan

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