Characteristics of plasma properties in an ablative pulsed plasma thruster

Schönherr, Tony; Nees, Frank; Arakawa, Yoshihiro; Komurasaki, Kimiya; Herdrich, Georg
March 2013
Physics of Plasmas;Mar2013, Vol. 20 Issue 3, p033503
Academic Journal
Pulsed plasma thrusters are electric space propulsion devices which create a highly transient plasma bulk in a short-time arc discharge that is expelled to create thrust. The transitional character and the dependency on the discharge properties are yet to be elucidated. In this study, optical emission spectroscopy and Mach-Zehnder interferometry are applied to investigate the plasma properties in variation of time, space, and discharge energy. Electron temperature, electron density, and Knudsen numbers are derived for the plasma bulk and discussed. Temperatures were found to be in the order of 1.7 to 3.1 eV, whereas electron densities showed maximum values of more than 1017 cm-3. Both values showed strong dependency on the discharge voltage and were typically higher closer to the electrodes. Capacitance and time showed less influence. Knudsen numbers were derived to be in the order of 10-3-10-2, thus, indicating a continuum flow behavior in the main plasma bulk.


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