Simulation of dust voids in complex plasmas
In dusty radio-frequency (RF) discharges under micro-gravity conditions often a void is observed, a dust free region in the discharge center. This void is generated by the drag of the positive ions pulled out of the discharge by the electric field. We have developed a hydrodynamic model for dusty RF discharges in argon to study the behaviour of the void and the interaction between the dust and the plasma background. The model is based on a recently developed theory for the ion drag force and the charging of the dust. With this model, we studied the plasma inside the void and obtained an understanding of theway it is sustained by heat generated in the surrounding dust cloud. When this heating mechanism is suppressed by lowering the RF power, the plasma density inside the void decreases, even below the level where the void collapses, as was recently shown in experiments on board the International Space Station. In this paper we present results of simulations of this collapse. At reduced power levels the collapsed central cloud behaves as an electronegative plasma with corresponding low time-averaged electric fields. This enables the creation of relatively homogeneous Yukawa balls, containing more than 100 000 particles. On earth, thermophoresis can be used to balance gravity and obtain similar dust distributions.