Dear Wikiwand AI, let's keep it short, summarize this topic like I'm... Ten years old or a College student
In plasma physics, the particle-in-cell (PIC) method refers to a technique used to solve a certain class of partial differential equations. In this method, individual particles (or fluid elements) in a Lagrangian frame are tracked in continuous phase space, whereas moments of the distribution such as densities and currents are computed simultaneously on Eulerian (stationary) mesh points.
PIC methods were already in use as early as 1955, even before the first Fortran compilers were available. The method gained popularity for plasma simulation in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Buneman, Dawson, Hockney, Birdsall, Morse and others. In plasma physics applications, the method amounts to following the trajectories of charged particles in self-consistent electromagnetic (or electrostatic) fields computed on a fixed mesh.