Fundamental physics within complex plasmas.
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Douglass, Angela Michelle.
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In this work, both experimental and numerical methods are used to investigate several of the fundamental processes and assumptions commonly found in an earth-based radio-frequency (RF) complex plasma discharge. First the manner in which the dust particle charge varies with the particle’s height above the powered electrode is investigated. Knowledge of the dust particle charge is required to understand nearly all complex plasma experiments since it affects the dust particle’s levitation height and particle-particle interactions. A fluid model which includes effects due to ion flow and electron depletion (which are significant dust charging effects within the sheath where the particles levitate) is employed to determine the plasma parameters required to calculate the dust particle charge. Second, the levitation limits of the dust particles and the structure of the sheath are investigated. The CASPER GEC RF reference cell is used to perform two experiments: one to measure the dust levitation height as a function of applied RF voltage and one to determine the electric force profile. The fluid model is then used to interpret the experimental results. This study provides a better understanding of the sheath structure, particle behavior within the sheath, and provides a new, in situ experimental method for locating the approximate height of the sheath edge in any dusty plasma system. Finally, both molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and an experiment are employed to determine the physical processes that a complex plasma system goes through as it rapidly transitions from a liquid to solid state.