A self-consistent model of ionic wind generation by negative corona discharges in air with experimental validation

S. Chen, J.C.P.Y. Nobelen, S. Nijdam

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Ionic wind is produced by a corona discharge when gaseous ions are accelerated in the electric field and transfer their momentum to neutral molecules by collisions. This technique is promising because a gas flow can be generated without the need for moving parts and can be easily miniaturized. The basic theory of ionic wind sounds simple but the details are far from clear. In our experiment, a negative DC voltage is applied to a needle-cylinder electrode geometry. Hot wire anemometry is used to measure the flow velocity at the downstream exit of the cylinder. The flow velocity fluctuates but the average velocity increases with the voltage. The current consists of a regular train of pulses with short rise time, the well-known Trichel pulses. To reveal the ionic wind mechanism in the Trichel pulse stage, a three-species corona model coupled with gas dynamics is built. The drift-diffusion equations of the plasma together with the Navier-Stokes equations of the flow are solved in COMSOL Multiphysics. The electric field, net number density of charged species, electrohydrodynamic (EHD) body force and flow velocity are calculated in detail by a self-consistent model. Multiple time scales are employed: hundreds of microseconds for the plasma characteristics and longer time scales (∼1 s) for the flow behavior. We found that the flow velocity as well as the EHD body force have opposite directions in the ionization region close to the tip and the ion drift region further away from the tip. The calculated mean current, Trichel pulse frequency and flow velocity are very close to our experimental results. Furthermore, in our simulations we were able to reproduce the mushroom-like minijets observed in experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number095005
Number of pages16
JournalPlasma Sources Science and Technology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2017


  • corona discharge
  • fluid model
  • ionic wind
  • Navier-Stokes equations
  • Trichel pulse


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