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An interesting aspect of complex plasma is its ability to self-organize into a variety of structural configurations and undergo transitions between these states. A striking phenomenon is the isotropic-to-string transition observed in electrorheological complex plasma under the influence of a symmetric ion wake field. Such transitions have been investigated using the Plasma Kristall-4 (PK-4) microgravity laboratory on the International Space Station. Recent experiments and numerical simulations have shown that, under PK-4-relevant discharge conditions, the seemingly homogeneous direct current discharge column is highly inhomogeneous, with large axial electric field oscillations associated with ionization waves occurring on microsecond time scales. A multi-scale numerical model of the dust–plasma interactions is employed to investigate the role of the electric field in the charge of individual dust grains, the ion wake field and the order of string-like structures. Results are compared with those for dust strings formed in similar conditions in the PK-4 experiment.Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
A molecular dynamics simulation of ion flow past dust grains is used to investigate the interaction between a pair of charged dust particles and streaming ions. The charging and dynamics of the grains are coupled and derived from the ion–dust interactions, allowing for detailed analysis of the ion wakefield structure and wakefield-mediated interaction as the dust particles change position. When a downstream grain oscillates vertically within the wake, it decharges by up to 30% as it approaches the upstream grain and then recharges as it recedes. There is an apparent hysteresis in charging depending on whether the grain is approaching or receding from a region of higher ion density. Maps of the ion-mediated dust–dust interaction force show that the radial extent of the wake region, which provides an attractive restoring force on the downstream particle, increases as the ion flow velocity decreases, though the restoring effect becomes weaker. As also shown in recent numerical results, there is no net attractive vertical force between the two grains. Instead, the reduced ion drag on the downstream particle allows it to “draft” in the wakefield of the upstream particle.