Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)
The expansion of a rarefied axisymmetric plume emitted by a plasma thruster is analyzed and compared with a 3D Cartesian-type and a 2D cylindrical-type simulation code, both based on a particle-in-cell formulation for the heavy species and a simple Boltzmann-type model for the electrons. The first part of the paper discusses the 2D code numerical challenges in the moving of particles, their generation within the cells, and the weighting to the nodes, caused by the radial non-uniformity and the singular and boundary character of the symmetry axis. The second part benchmarks the 2D code against the 3D one for a high-energy, unmagnetized plume with three major species populations (injected neutrals, singly-charged and doubly-charged ions) and three minor species populations (constituted by particles coming from collisional processes, such as the charge-exchange reactions). The excellent agreement found in the results proves that both plume codes are capable of simulating, with a reasonable noise level, heavy particle populations differing by several orders of magnitude in number density. For simulations with a comparable level of accuracy, the 2D code presents a ten-fold gain in computational cost, although the symmetry axis remains its weakest point, due to particle depletion there and the related weighting noise.
plasma plumes; particle-in-cell; axisymmetric geometry; charge-exchange; ion back-flow; population control; simulations; density; charge