Dust charging in dynamic ion wakes
A molecular dynamics simulation of ion flow past dust grains is used to investigate the interaction between a pair of charged dust particles and streaming ions. The charging and dynamics of the grains are coupled and derived from the ion-dust interactions, allowing for detailed analysis of the ion wakefield structure and wakefield-mediated interaction as the dust particles change position. When a downstream grain oscillates vertically within the wake, it decharges by up to 30% as it approaches the upstream grain, then recharges as it recedes. There is an apparent hysteresis in charging depending on whether the grain is approaching or receding from a region of higher ion density. Maps of the ion-mediated dust-dust interaction force show that the radial extent of the wake region, which provides an attractive restoring force on the downstream particle, increases as the ion flow velocity decreases, though the restoring effect becomes weaker. As also shown in recent numerical results, there is no net attractive vertical force between the two grains. Instead, the reduced ion drag on the downstream particle allows it to “draft” in the wakefield of the upstream particle.