An adaptive grid refinement strategy for the simulation of negative streamers

C. Montijn, W. Hundsdorfer, U. Ebert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


The evolution of negative streamers during electric breakdown of a non-attaching gas can be described by a two-fluid model for electrons and positive ions. It consists of continuity equations for the charged particles including drift, diffusion and reaction in the local electric field, coupled to the Poisson equation for the electric potential. The model generates field enhancement and steep propagating ionization fronts at the tip of growing ionized filaments. An adaptive grid refinement method for the simulation of these structures is presented. It uses finite volume spatial discretizations and explicit time stepping, which allows the decoupling of the grids for the continuity equations from those for the Poisson equation. Standard refinement methods in which the refinement criterion is based on local error monitors fail due to the pulled character of the streamer front that propagates into a linearly unstable state. We present a refinement method which deals with all these features. Tests on one-dimensional streamer fronts as well as on three-dimensional streamers with cylindrical symmetry (hence effectively 2D for numerical purposes) are carried out successfully. Results on fine grids are presented, they show that such an adaptive grid method is needed to capture the streamer characteristics well. This refinement strategy enables us to adequately compute negative streamers in pure gases in the parameter regime where a physical instability appears: branching streamers. [All rights reserved Elsevier]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-835
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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