Microscale plasma actuators operate at lower voltages than their macroscale counterparts and allow easy integration into microsystems. Field-emission driven microplasma actuators can be applied for gas flow enhancement in microchannels for pumping and microcombustion applications. The present work studies the feasibility of microplasma actuation as a pump for gaseous microchannel flow. We use 2D Particle-In-Cell / Monte Carlo Collisions (PIC/MCC) method to calculate the volumetric force generated by field-emission driven micro dielectric barrier discharge (DBD). The simulations show that the induced volumetric force and heat source scale inversely with the dielectric thickness. A volumetric force of 1000 μN/mm3 with Joule heat source of 6 W/mm3 for an input power of 16 mW/m was obtained for a dielectric thickness of 3 μm per DBD. This force couples with the momentum flow in the microchannel in the solution of the Navier-Stokes equations. The flow enhancement increased with the decreasing Reynolds number (Re). In a long microchannel (40 mm) at Re = 73, the actuation lead to 22% increase in mass flow rate. However the vorticity induced by heating reduced this gain by 0.03%. In a short microchannel (1.5 mm) without pressure gradient, the actuator induced flow rate was found to be higher than that of a conventional DBD pump. The inclusion of heat source further enhanced the flow by 0.05% in the short channels.

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