A Python-based adaptive mesh solver for drift-diffusion modelling of streamer discharges

Wong, T. and Timoshkin, I. and MacGregor, S. and Wilson, M. and Given, M.; (2022) A Python-based adaptive mesh solver for drift-diffusion modelling of streamer discharges. In: 2021 IEEE Pulsed Power Conference, PPC 2021. IEEE International Pulsed Power Conference . IEEE, USA, pp. 1-5. ISBN 9781665433471 (https://doi.org/10.1109/PPC40517.2021.9733156)

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Streamer discharges are fast-moving plasma fronts which can be formed in gases stressed with a sufficiently high electric field and represent a crucial stage in the evolution of an electrical breakdown. Recently, the investigation of streamer discharges has regained significant interest due to the numerous basic processes and practical applications that require their understanding. These include geophysical processes such as sprite development; gas-insulated system design for power and pulsed power equipment; and a growing number of industrial and environmental applications. Computational advances have provided deep insights into some critically important properties and characteristics of streamers, yet simulations remain highly nontrivial due to the multiscale nature of the phenomena. In the present study, the drift-diffusion approximation for the computational modelling of streamers in gases has been implemented using the open-source finite-element platform FEniCS. Equipped with a Python interface to a high-speed C++ backend, the use of FEniCS greatly improves usability by requiring less computational expertise, yet with little compromise on solver efficiency. The accuracy of the code has been verified through comparison with six other codes from a recently published benchmarking study. Thus, we conclude that the FEniCS platform may be a highly suitable alternative for furthering the study of streamer discharges.