Connection between Polytropic Index and Heating

G. Livadiotis, D. J. McComas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper derives the one-to-one connecting relationships between plasma heating and its polytropic index, and addresses the consequences through the transport equation of temperature. Thermodynamic polytropic processes are classified in accordance to their polytropic index, the exponent of the power-law relationship of thermal pressure expressed with respect to density. These processes generalize the adiabatic one, where no heating is exchanged between the system and its environment. We show that, in addition to heating terms, the transport equation of temperature depends on the adiabatic index, instead of a general, nonadiabatic polytropic index, even when the plasma follows nonadiabatic processes. This is because all the information regarding the system's polytropic index is contained in the heating term, even for a nonconstant polytropic index. Moreover, the paper (i) defines the role of the polytropic index in the context of heating; (ii) clarifies the role of the nonadiabatic polytropic index in the transport equation of temperature; (iii) provides an alternative method for deriving the turbulent heating through the comparably simpler polytropic index path; and, finally, (iv) shows a one-component plasma proof-of-concept of this method and discusses the implications of such derived connecting relationships in the solar wind plasma in the heliosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number88
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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