Purdue University Graduate School

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Calculating space-charge-limited current density in nonplanar and multi-dimensional diodes

posted on 2024-04-29, 22:31 authored by Sree Harsha Naropanth RamamurthySree Harsha Naropanth Ramamurthy

Calculating space-charge limited current (SCLC) is a critical problem in plasma physics and intense particle beams. Accurate calculations are important for validation and verification of particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations. The theoretical assessment of SCLC is complicated by the nonlinearity of the Poisson equation when combined with the energy balance and continuity equations. This dissertation provides several theoretical tools to convert the nonlinear Poisson equation into a corresponding linear differential equation, which is then solved for numerous geometries of practical interest.

The first and second chapters briefly summarize the application of variational calculus (VC) to solve for one-dimensional (1D) SCLC in cylindrical and spherical diode geometries by extremizing the current in the gap. Next, conformal mapping (CM) is presented to convert the concentric cylindrical diode geometry into a planar geometry to obtain the same SCLC solution as VC. In the next chapter, SCLC is determined for several geometries with curvilinear electron flow that cannot be solved using VC because the Poisson equation cannot be written easily. We then map a hyperboloid tip onto a plane to form a non-Euclidean disk (Poincaré disk). These mappings on to Poincaré disk are utilized to solve for SCLC in tip-to-tip and tip-to-plane geometries. Lie symmetries are then introduced to solve for SCLC with nonzero monoenergetic injection velocity, recovering the solutions for concentric cylinders, concentric spheres, tip-to-plane, and tip-to-tip for zero injection velocity. We then extend the SCLC calculations to account for any geometry in multiple dimensions by using VC and vacuum capacitance. First, we derive a relationship between the space-charge limited (SCL) potential and vacuum potential that holds for any geometry. This relationship is utilized to obtain exact closed-form solutions for SCLC in two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) planar geometries considering emission from the full surface of the cathode. PIC simulations using VSim were performed that agreed with the SCLC in 2D diode with a maximum error of 13%. In the final chapters, we extend these multidimensional SCLC calculations to nonzero monoenergetic emission. The SCLC in any orthogonal diode in any number of dimensions is obtained by relating it to the vacuum capacitance. The current in the bifurcation regime is also derived from first-principles from vacuum capacitance. The simulations performed in VSim agreed with the theory with a maximum error of 7%.

These mathematical techniques form a set of powerful tools that extend prior studies by yielding exact and approximate SCLC in numerous nonplanar and multidimensional diode geometries, thereby not requiring expensive and time-consuming PIC simulations. While more experiments are required to benchmark the validity of these calculations, these results may ultimately prove useful by providing a rapid first-principles approach to determine SCLC for many geometries that can be used to assess the validity of PIC simulations and facilitate multiphysics simulations.


Air Force Science and Technology 2030

United States Air Force

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Department of Energy

Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering

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National Research Council

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Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Nuclear Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Allen Garner

Additional Committee Member 2

Stylianos Chatzidakis

Additional Committee Member 3

Hitesh Bindra

Additional Committee Member 4

Lay Kee Ang