3D particle simulations of positive air-methane streamers for combustion
Streamer discharges can be used as a primary source of reactive species for plasma-assisted combustion. In this research we investigate positive streamers in a stoichiometric air-methane mixture at 1 bar and 300 K with a three-dimensional particle-in-cell model for the electrons. We first discuss suitable electron scattering cross sections and an extension of the photoionization mechanism to air-methane mixtures. We discuss that the addition of 9.5% methane leaves electron transport and reaction coefficients essentially unchanged, but it largely suppresses photoionization and shortens the photon mean free path. This leads to (1) accelerated streamer branching, (2) higher electric field enhancement at the streamer head, (3) lower internal electric fields, and (4) higher electron densities in the streamer channel. We also calculate the time-integrated energy density deposited during the evolution of positive streamers in background electric fields of 12.5 and 20 kV/cm. We find typical values of the deposited energy density in the range of 0.5 − 2.5 kJ/m3 within the ionized interior of streamers with a length of 5 mm; this value is rather independent of the electric fields applied here. Finally we find that the energy deposited in the inelastic electron scattering processes mainly produces reactive nitrogen species: N2 triplet states and N, but also O and H radicals. The production of H2 and O2 singlet states also occurs albeit less pronounced. Our calculation of the primary production of reactive species can for example be used in global chemistry models.