Nonlinear plasma structures in the partially magnetized E × B plasma of a cylindrical magnetron are investigated using 2D3V particle-in-cell Monte Carlo collision simulations. In the early phase of the discharge, plasma gradients and radial electric fields excite a lower hybrid type instability that forms long wavelength rotating density spokes. As the discharge grows in density by ionization and the cathode gets shielded by the formation of an ion sheath, radial electric fields diminish in the quasineutral region of the discharge. This induces a transition of the spokes into short-scale spoke-on-spoke modes. The short wavelength structures can be reversed back into a long spiral spoke by lowering the neutral pressure, which revives the radial electric fields via a turbulent plasma expansion. Plasma phenomena connected to the rotating spoke include the anomalous radial transport and loss of electrons through the spoke, azimuthal dragging of ions by the spoke’s field, plasma temperature modulations by the spoke structure, and formation of electron vortices around equipotential islands, in some cases with opposing rotations to the underlying E × B drift. Electron scattering from non-ionizing collisions with neutrals also has a minor influence on the instability.

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