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The cathode plasma expansion has been widely investigated and is recognized as impedance collapse in a relativistic backward wave oscillator (RBWO). However, the process of formation and expansion of cathode plasma is very complicated, and the thickness of plasma is only several millimeters, so the simulation of cathode plasma requires high temporal and spatial resolutions. Only the scaled-down diode model and the thin gas layer model are considered in the previous hybrid simulation, and there are few numerical studies on the effect of cathode plasma expansion on the RBWO. In this paper, the moving-boundary conformal particle-in-cell method is proposed; the cathode plasma front is treated in this novel method as the actual cathode surface, and the explosive electron emission boundary moves as the expansion of cathode plasma. Moreover, in order to accurately simulate the electromagnetic field near the cathode surface, the conformal finite-difference time-domain method based on the enlarged cell technique is adopted. The numerical simulation indicates that the diode voltage decreases and the beam current increases as cathode plasma expands; when the cathode plasma velocity is 10 cm/s, the pulse duration of the generated microwave decreases from 30 ns to 10 ns, the working frequency decreases from 9.83 GHz to 9.64 GHz, and the output power decreases 30% in the course of cathode plasma expansion.


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