Continuum Kinetic Simulations of Plasma Sheaths and Instabilities

dc.contributor.authorCagas, Petren
dc.contributor.committeechairSrinivasan, Bhuvanaen
dc.contributor.committeememberAdams, Colinen
dc.contributor.committeememberScales, Wayne A.en
dc.contributor.committeememberWarburton, Timothyen
dc.contributor.departmentAerospace and Ocean Engineeringen
dc.description.abstractA careful study of plasma-material interactions is essential to understand and improve the operation of devices where plasma contacts a wall such as plasma thrusters, fusion devices, spacecraft-environment interactions, to name a few. This work aims to advance our understanding of fundamental plasma processes pertaining to plasma-material interactions, sheath physics, and kinetic instabilities through theory and novel numerical simulations. Key contributions of this work include (i) novel continuum kinetic algorithms with novel boundary conditions that directly discretize the Vlasov/Boltzmann equation using the discontinuous Galerkin method, (ii) fundamental studies of plasma sheath physics with collisions, ionization, and physics-based wall emission, and (iii) theoretical and numerical studies of the linear growth and nonlinear saturation of the kinetic Weibel instability, including its role in plasma sheaths. The continuum kinetic algorithm has been shown to compare well with theoretical predictions of Landau damping of Langmuir waves and the two-stream instability. Benchmarks are also performed using the electromagnetic Weibel instability and excellent agreement is found between theory and simulation. The role of the electric field is significant during nonlinear saturation of the Weibel instability, something that was not noted in previous studies of the Weibel instability. For some plasma parameters, the electric field energy can approach magnitudes of the magnetic field energy during the nonlinear phase of the Weibel instability. A significant focus is put on understanding plasma sheath physics which is essential for studying plasma-material interactions. Initial simulations are performed using a baseline collisionless kinetic model to match classical sheath theory and the Bohm criterion. Following this, a collision operator and volumetric physics-based source terms are introduced and effects of heat flux are briefly discussed. Novel boundary conditions are developed and included in a general manner with the continuum kinetic algorithm for bounded plasma simulations. A physics-based wall emission model based on first principles from quantum mechanics is self-consistently implemented and demonstrated to significantly impact sheath physics. These are the first continuum kinetic simulations using self-consistent, wall emission boundary conditions with broad applicability across a variety of regimes.en
dc.description.abstractgeneralAn understanding of plasma physics is vital for problems on a wide range of scales: from large astrophysical scales relevant to the formation of intergalactic magnetic fields, to scales relevant to solar wind and space weather, which poses a significant risk to Earth’s power grid, to design of fusion devices, which have the potential to meet terrestrial energy needs perpetually, and electric space propulsion for human deep space exploration. This work aims to further our fundamental understanding of plasma dynamics for applications with bounded plasmas. A comprehensive understanding of theory coupled with high-fidelity numerical simulations of fundamental plasma processes is necessary, this then can be used to improve improve the operation of plasma devices. There are two main thrusts of this work. The first thrust involves advancing the state-of-the-art in numerical modeling. Presently, numerical simulations in plasma physics are typically performed either using kinetic models such as particle-in-cell, where individual particles are tracked through a phase-space grid, or using fluid models, where reductions are performed from kinetic physics to arrive at continuum models that can be solved using well-developed numerical methods. The novelty of the numerical modeling is the ability to perform a complete kinetic calculation using a continuum description and evolving a complete distribution function in phase-space, thus resolving kinetic physics with continuum numerics. The second thrust, which is the main focus of this work, aims to advance our fundamental understanding of plasma-wall interactions as applicable to real engineering problems. The continuum kinetic numerical simulations are used to study plasma-material interactions and their effects on plasma sheaths. Plasma sheaths are regions of positive space charge formed everywhere that a plasma comes into contact with a solid surface; the charge inequality is created because mobile electrons can quickly exit the domain. A local electric field is self-consistently created which accelerates ions and retards electrons so the ion and electron fluxes are equalized. Even though sheath physics occurs on micro-scales, sheaths can have global consequences. The electric field accelerates ions towards the wall which can cause erosion of the material. Another consequence of plasma-wall interaction is the emission of electrons. Emitted electrons are accelerated back into the domain and can contribute to anomalous transport. The novel numerical method coupled with a unique implementation of electron emission from the wall is used to study plasma-wall interactions. While motivated by Hall thrusters, the applicability of the algorithms developed here extends to a number of other disciplines such as semiconductors, fusion research, and spacecraft-environment interactions.en
dc.description.degreePh. D.en
dc.publisherVirginia Techen
dc.rightsIn Copyrighten
dc.subjectplasma sheathen
dc.subjectdiscontinuous Galerkinen
dc.subjectcontinuum kinetic methoden
dc.subjectplasma instabilitiesen
dc.subjectplasma-material interactionsen
dc.titleContinuum Kinetic Simulations of Plasma Sheaths and Instabilitiesen
dc.typeDissertationen Engineeringen Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen D.en


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