Influence of electrical boundary conditions on molecular dynamics simulations of ionic liquid electrosprays

Arnaud Borner, Pengxiang Wang, Deborah A. Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are coupled to solutions of Poisson's equation to study the effects of the electrical boundary conditions on the emission modes of an electrospray thruster fed with an ionic liquid. A comparison of a new tip boundary condition with an analytical model based on a semihyperboloidal shape offers good agreement, although the analytical model overestimates the maximum value of the tangential electric field since it does not take into account the space charge that reduces the field at the liquid surface. It is found that a constant electric field model gives similar agreement to the more rigorous and computationally expensive tip boundary condition at lower flow rates. However, at higher mass flow rates the constant electric field produces extruded particles with higher Coulomb energy per ion, consistent with droplet formation. Furthermore, the MD simulations show that ion emission sites differ based on the boundary condition and snapshots offer an explanation as to why some boundary condition models will predict emission in a purely ionic mode, whereas others suggest a mixed ion-droplet regime. Finally, specific impulses and thrusts are compared for the different models and are found to vary up to 30% due to differences in the average charge to mass ratio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number063303
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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