Introduction to Plasma Simulation Methods

Course Date: July 11 – August 15, 2023
Lecture Time: Tuesdays/Thursdays 9:30am to 12:00pm US Pacific Time
Registration Fee: $375 (full), $300 (academic)
Texbook: Brieda, Plasma Simulations by Example, CRC 2019
Registration is closed / class is in session.


This course introduces fundamentals of plasma simulations by following the content of my recent textbook. We start by reviewing basic programming principles as well as numerical techniques such as Finite Difference. We then learn how to develop a fully kinetic simulation of plasma oscillating in a grounded box using the Particle in Cell (PIC) method. Next we cover hybrid particle-fluid approaches, material interactions, and collisions. From there, we review the Finite Element Method, Eulerian (fluid) approaches, and electromagnetics. The course closes by introducing high performance computing based on multithreading, MPI, and CUDA. At the end of the course, you should have a good understanding of the underlying principles behind PIC and MHD methods, and be able to develop your own 1D, 2D, and 3D plasma simulation codes. The course also cover post-processing and data visualization. Use this link to register, and select “Plasma Sim Methods” as the course.


While not absolutely required, if possible, please obtain a copy of Brieda, Plasma Simulations by Example, available from Routledge (CRC Press), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other similar book vendors. Given the large amount of material to be covered, the book will serve as a valuable resource for additional detail that does not fit into the allotted time slot.

Figure 1. Course textbook, Brieda, Plasma Simulations by Example, CRC Press 2019



Below you will find example output from codes to be developed as well as example of lecture slides from prior courses.

Figure 2. Example of code outputs to be generated in class

Figure 3. Example of a lecture material from prior courses


The course contains weekly optional assignments. These assignments need to be completed (graded on effort) in order to receive a course certificate


All students are expected to have a basic understanding of numerical techniques, plasma and gas dynamics, and computer programming. The lectures and demonstration programs will utilize C++ and Python programming languages. Students need to have access to a computer with a compiler of choice. Computer with Internet access will be needed to access the lectures and course material. The course will be conducted in English.


The course consists of online lessons conducted through GoToMeeting. The lessons are recorded and the videos, along with pdf slides and code examples, are posted online shortly after each lesson ends. The course also includes optional homework assignments, which need to be completed in order to receive a certificate of completion.


The instructor, Dr. Lubos Brieda (Ph.D. George Washington University 2012, M.Sc. Virginia Tech 2005), is the founder and president of Particle In Cell Consulting, LLC, a Los Angeles-based company specializing in providing tools and services for spacecraft contamination control and electric propulsion communities. He also works as a part time lecturer at the USC Department of Astronautical Engineering. He has over 15 years of experience developing plasma simulation codes for a wide range of applications, including spacecraft electric propulsion, space environment interactions, surface processing, plasma medicine, and contamination control. He has also developed codes for analyzing molecular and particulate contamination transport. This code was recently used to analyze water ice build up during the deployment stage of JWST, and is currently being used in support of JHU/APL Dragonfly mission to Titan.