Description: |
SHARP: A Spatially Higher-order, Relativistic Particle-in-Cell Code. Numerical heating in particle-in-cell (PIC) codes currently precludes the accurate simulation of cold, relativistic plasma over long periods, severely limiting their applications in astrophysical environments. We present a spatially higher-order accurate relativistic PIC algorithm in one spatial dimension, which conserves charge and momentum exactly. We utilize the smoothness implied by the usage of higher-order interpolation functions to achieve a spatially higher-order accurate algorithm (up to fifth order). We validate our algorithm against several test problems – thermal stability of stationary plasma, stability of linear plasma waves, and two-stream instability in the relativistic and non-relativistic regimes. Comparing our simulations to exact solutions of the dispersion relations, we demonstrate that SHARP can quantitatively reproduce important kinetic features of the linear regime. Our simulations have a superior ability to control energy non-conservation and avoid numerical heating in comparison to common second-order schemes. We provide a natural definition for convergence of a general PIC algorithm: the complement of physical modes captured by the simulation, i.e., those that lie above the Poisson noise, must grow commensurately with the resolution. This implies that it is necessary to simultaneously increase the number of particles per cell and decrease the cell size. We demonstrate that traditional ways for testing for convergence fail, leading to plateauing of the energy error. This new PIC code enables us to faithfully study the long-term evolution of plasma problems that require absolute control of the energy and momentum conservation. |