Particle-in-cell simulations of electron dynamics in low pressure discharges with magnetic fields
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In modern low pressure plasma discharges, the electron mean free path often exceeds the device dimensions. Under such conditions the electron velocity distribution function may significantly deviate from Maxwellian, which strongly affects the discharge properties. The description of such plasmas has to be kinetic and often requires the use of numerical methods. This thesis presents the study of kinetic effects in inductively coupled plasmas and Hall thrusters carried out by means of particle-in-cell simulations. The important result and the essential part of the research is the development of particle-in-cell codes. An advective electromagnetic 1d3v particle-in-cell code is developed for modelling the inductively coupled plasmas. An electrostatic direct implicit 1d3v particle-in-cell code EDIPIC is developed for plane geometry simulations of Hall thruster plasmas. The EDIPIC code includes several physical effects important for Hall thrusters: collisions with neutral atoms, turbulence, and secondary electron emission. In addition, the narrow sheath regions crucial for plasma-wall interaction are resolved in simulations. The code is parallelized to achieve fast run times. Inductively coupled plasmas sustained by the external RF electromagnetic field are widely used in material processing reactors and electrodeless lighting sources. In a low pressure inductive discharge, the collisionless electron motion strongly affects the absorption of the external electromagnetic waves and, via the ponderomotive force, the density profile. The linear theory of the anomalous skin effect based on the linear electron trajectories predicts a strong decrease of the ponderomotive force for warm plasmas. Particle-in-cell simulations show that the nonlinear modification of electron trajectories by the RF magnetic field partially compensates the effects of electron thermal motion. As a result, the ponderomotive force in warm collisionless plasmas is stronger than predicted by linear kinetic theory. Hall thrusters, where plasma is maintained by the DC electric field crossed with the stationary magnetic field, are efficient low-thrust devices for spacecraft propulsion. The energy exchange between the plasma and the wall in Hall thrusters is enhanced by the secondary electron emission, which strongly affects electron temperature and, subsequently, thruster operation. Particle-in-cell simulations show that the effect of secondary electron emission on electron cooling in Hall thrusters is quite different from predictions of previous fluid studies. Collisionless electron motion results in a strongly anisotropic, nonmonotonic electron velocity distribution function, which is depleted in the loss cone, subsequently reducing the electron wall losses compared to Maxwellian plasmas. Secondary electrons form two beams propagating between the walls of a thruster channel in opposite radial directions. The secondary electron beams acquire additional energy in the crossed external electric and magnetic fields. The energy increment depends on both the field magnitudes and the electron flight time between the walls. A new model of secondary electron emission in a bounded plasma slab, allowing for emission due to the counter-propagating secondary electron beams, is developed. It is shown that in bounded plasmas the average energy of plasma bulk electrons is far less important for the space charge saturation of the sheath than it is in purely Maxwellian plasmas. A new regime with relaxation oscillations of the sheath has been identified in simulations. Recent experimental studies of Hall thrusters indirectly support the simulation results with respect to the electron temperature saturation and the channel width effect on the thruster discharge.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentPhysics and Engineering Physics
ProgramPhysics and Engineering Physics
SupervisorSmolyakov, Andrei I.
CommitteeTanaka, Kaori; Soteros, Chris; Manson, Alan; Hirose, Akira; Bradley, Michael P.
Copyright DateJune 2006
non-Maxwellian electron velocity distribution func
space charge limited emission
secondary electron emission
inductively coupled plasma