Journal: Journal of Plasma Physics, vol. 89, 905890102, 2023
The formation time of the surrounding sheath of Langmuir probes in an ionospheric plasma has been studied to better understand the constraints this puts on the sampling frequency of a probe. A fully kinetic three-dimensional particle-in-cell model is used to simulate the temporal effects in the electron saturation region as the sheath forms. The stability of the probe current and the stability of the ion and electron density in the vicinity of the probe have been used to evaluate when the sheath was formed. Simulated results were compared with theoretical models and are in good agreement with the theoretical results. This shows that theoretical models can be used as guidance to estimate the formation time and to determine the sampling rate for a swept bias Langmuir system. Our results also show that the formation time is less affected by the plasma temperature and bias voltage as we move into the thick sheath regime, and will instead be determined by the plasma density. The presented results also show that applying a step function to the probe could be used to characterise ions species composition, or to estimate the ion density.