Weak Scaling of the Parallel Immersed-Finite-Element Particle-In-Cell (PIFE-PIC) Framework with Lunar Plasma Charging Simulations


Weak scaling performance of a recently developed fully kinetic, 3-D parallel immersed-finite-element particle-in-cell framework, namely PIFE-PIC, was investigated. A nominal 1-D plasma charging problem, the lunar photoelectron sheath at a low Sun elevation angle, was chosen to validate PIFE-PIC against recently derived semi-analytic solutions of a 1-D photoelectron sheath. The weak scaling performance test shows that the overall efficiency of PIFE-PIC is insensitive to the number of macroparticles and, counterintuitively, more domain decomposition iterations in the field-solve of PIC may lead to faster computing due to better convergence of field solutions at early stages of PIC iteration. The PIFE-PIC framework was then applied to simulate plasma charging of a wavy lunar surface with 324,000 cells and 150 million macroparticles demonstrating the capability of PIFE-PIC in resolving local-scale plasma environment near the surface of the Moon.


Mathematics and Statistics

Second Department

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Research Center/Lab(s)

Center for High Performance Computing Research


This work was partially supported by a NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunity (D.L.), NASA-Missouri Space Grant Consortium through NASA-EPSCoR-Missouri (X.H. and D.H.) and graduate scholarships (D.L.), as well as NSF through grants DMS-2005272 and DMS-2110833 (X.Z.), DMS-2111039 (X.H. and D.H.), and CBET-2132655 (D.H.). The simulations presented here were performed with computing resources provided by the Center for High Performance Computing Research at Missouri University of Science and Technology through an NSF Grant OAC-1919789.

Keywords and Phrases

Immersed finite element; Particle in cell; Plasma charging; Weak scaling

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

2196-4386; 2196-4378

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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Publication Date

07 Mar 2022