A split control variate scheme for PIC simulations with collisions

Eric Sonnendrücker, Abigail Wacher, Roman Hatzky, Ralf Kleiber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


When the distribution function of plasma particles stays close to some analytically known function, statistical noise inherent to Monte Carlo simulations can be greatly reduced by introducing this function as a control variate in the computation of the velocity moments. Such a method, even though it can be naturally applied to nonlinear simulations, has originally emerged from linearised simulations and is usually called the δf particle-in-cell (PIC) method. In the past, the method has been extended to also handle collisions. This resulted in a two weight scheme which is known to produce a pronounced weight growth problem which rapidly makes it inefficient as a control variate method for variance reduction. In this work we analyse the weight growth problem within a simple example, which allows us to overcome its pathological behaviour. We also introduce a new split algorithm based on switching the control variate for PIC simulations with collisions. A key element of our algorithm is a new weight smoothing operator which enables us to obtain a significant noise reduction both in the presence of collisions and in the deep nonlinear phase of PIC simulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-419
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
StatePublished - 5 Aug 2015


  • Collisions
  • Control variate
  • Fokker-Planck
  • Monte Carlo
  • PIC
  • Particle in cell
  • Vlasov-Poisson system


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