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A positivity-preserving high-order semi-Lagrangian discontinuous Galerkin scheme for the Vlasov-Poisson equations. (English) Zbl 1419.76506
Summary: The Vlasov-Poisson equations describe the evolution of a collisionless plasma, represented through a probability density function (PDF) that self-interacts via an electrostatic force. One of the main difficulties in numerically solving this system is the severe time-step restriction that arises from parts of the PDF associated with moderate-to-large velocities. The dominant approach in the plasma physics community for removing these time-step restrictions is the so-called particle-in-cell (PIC) method, which discretizes the distribution function into a set of macro-particles, while the electric field is represented on a mesh. Several alternatives to this approach exist, including fully Lagrangian, fully Eulerian, and so-called semi-Lagrangian methods. The focus of this work is the semi-Lagrangian approach, which begins with a grid-based Eulerian representation of both the PDF and the electric field, then evolves the PDF via Lagrangian dynamics, and finally projects this evolved field back onto the original Eulerian mesh. In particular, we develop in this work a method that discretizes the 1 + 1 Vlasov-Poisson system via a high-order discontinuous Galerkin (DG) method in phase space, and an operator split, semi-Lagrangian method in time. Second-order accuracy in time is relatively easy to achieve via Strang operator splitting. With additional work, using higher-order splitting and a higher-order method of characteristics, we also demonstrate how to push this scheme to fourth-order accuracy in time. We show how to resolve all of the Lagrangian dynamics in such a way that mass is exactly conserved, positivity is maintained, and high-order accuracy is achieved. The Poisson equation is solved to high-order via the smallest stencil local discontinuous Galerkin (LDG) approach. We test the proposed scheme on several standard test cases.

76M25 Other numerical methods (fluid mechanics) (MSC2010)
76M20 Finite difference methods applied to problems in fluid mechanics
76X05 Ionized gas flow in electromagnetic fields; plasmic flow
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