Modeling weakly-ionized plasmas in magnetic field: A new computationally-efficient approach

Bernard Parent, Sergey O. Macheret, Mikhail N. Shneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Despite its success at simulating accurately both non-neutral and quasi-neutral weakly-ionized plasmas, the drift-diffusion model has been observed to be a particularly stiff set of equations. Recently, it was demonstrated that the stiffness of the system could be relieved by rewriting the equations such that the potential is obtained from Ohm's law rather than Gauss's law while adding some source terms to the ion transport equation to ensure that Gauss's law is satisfied in non-neutral regions. Although the latter was applicable to multicomponent and multidimensional plasmas, it could not be used for plasmas in which the magnetic field was significant. This paper hence proposes a new computationally-efficient set of electron and ion transport equations that can be used not only for a plasma with multiple types of positive and negative ions, but also for a plasma in magnetic field. Because the proposed set of equations is obtained from the same physical model as the conventional drift-diffusion equations without introducing new assumptions or simplifications, it results in the same exact solution when the grid is refined sufficiently while being more computationally efficient: not only is the proposed approach considerably less stiff and hence requires fewer iterations to reach convergence but it yields a converged solution that exhibits a significantly higher resolution. The combined faster convergence and higher resolution is shown to result in a hundredfold increase in computational efficiency for some typical steady and unsteady plasma problems including non-neutral cathode and anode sheaths as well as quasi-neutral regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)779-799
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Numerical Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Cathode sheath
  • Convergence acceleration
  • Dielectric sheath
  • Gauss's law
  • Generalized Ohm's law
  • Magnetized plasma
  • Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • Non-neutral plasma
  • Quasi-neutral plasma
  • Weakly-ionized plasma


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