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Title: Magnetic shielding of a laboratory Hall thruster. I. Theory and validation

Abstract

We demonstrate a technique by which erosion of the acceleration channel in Hall thrusters can be reduced by at least a few orders of magnitude. The first principles of the technique, now known as “magnetic shielding,” have been derived based on the findings of 2-D numerical simulations. The simulations, in turn, guided the modification of an existing 6-kW laboratory Hall thruster to test the theory and are the main subject of this Part I article. Part II expands on the results of the experiments. Near the walls of the magnetically shielded (MS) thruster theory and experiment agree that (1) the plasma potential has been sustained at values near the discharge voltage, and (2) the electron temperature has been lowered compared to the unshielded thruster. Erosion rates deduced directly from the wall probes show reductions of at least ∼3 orders of magnitude at the MS inner wall when an ion energy threshold of 30.5 V is used in the sputtering yield model of the channel material. At the outer wall the probes reveal that the ion energy was below the assumed threshold. Using a threshold of 25 V, the simulations predict a minimum reduction of ∼600 at the MS inner wall. At themore » MS outer wall ion energies are found to be below 25 V. When a 50-V threshold is used the computed ion energies are below the threshold at both sides of the channel. Uncertainties, sensitivities, and differences between theory and experiment are also discussed. The elimination of wall erosion in Hall thrusters solves a problem that has remained unsettled for more than five decades.« less

Authors:
; ; ;  [1]
  1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91109 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22275589
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Journal of Applied Physics; Journal Volume: 115; Journal Issue: 4; Other Information: (c) 2014 AIP Publishing LLC; Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY; ACCELERATION; COMPARATIVE EVALUATIONS; COMPUTERIZED SIMULATION; ELECTRIC DISCHARGES; ELECTRON TEMPERATURE; EROSION; ION THRUSTERS; MAGNETIC SHIELDING; MULTICHARGED IONS; PLASMA POTENTIAL; PROPULSION SYSTEMS

Citation Formats

Mikellides, Ioannis G., E-mail: Ioannis.G.Mikellides@jpl.nasa.gov, Katz, Ira, Hofer, Richard R., and Goebel, Dan M.. Magnetic shielding of a laboratory Hall thruster. I. Theory and validation. United States: N. p., 2014. Web. doi:10.1063/1.4862313.
Mikellides, Ioannis G., E-mail: Ioannis.G.Mikellides@jpl.nasa.gov, Katz, Ira, Hofer, Richard R., & Goebel, Dan M.. Magnetic shielding of a laboratory Hall thruster. I. Theory and validation. United States. doi:10.1063/1.4862313.
Mikellides, Ioannis G., E-mail: Ioannis.G.Mikellides@jpl.nasa.gov, Katz, Ira, Hofer, Richard R., and Goebel, Dan M.. Tue . "Magnetic shielding of a laboratory Hall thruster. I. Theory and validation". United States. doi:10.1063/1.4862313.
@article{osti_22275589,
title = {Magnetic shielding of a laboratory Hall thruster. I. Theory and validation},
author = {Mikellides, Ioannis G., E-mail: Ioannis.G.Mikellides@jpl.nasa.gov and Katz, Ira and Hofer, Richard R. and Goebel, Dan M.},
abstractNote = {We demonstrate a technique by which erosion of the acceleration channel in Hall thrusters can be reduced by at least a few orders of magnitude. The first principles of the technique, now known as “magnetic shielding,” have been derived based on the findings of 2-D numerical simulations. The simulations, in turn, guided the modification of an existing 6-kW laboratory Hall thruster to test the theory and are the main subject of this Part I article. Part II expands on the results of the experiments. Near the walls of the magnetically shielded (MS) thruster theory and experiment agree that (1) the plasma potential has been sustained at values near the discharge voltage, and (2) the electron temperature has been lowered compared to the unshielded thruster. Erosion rates deduced directly from the wall probes show reductions of at least ∼3 orders of magnitude at the MS inner wall when an ion energy threshold of 30.5 V is used in the sputtering yield model of the channel material. At the outer wall the probes reveal that the ion energy was below the assumed threshold. Using a threshold of 25 V, the simulations predict a minimum reduction of ∼600 at the MS inner wall. At the MS outer wall ion energies are found to be below 25 V. When a 50-V threshold is used the computed ion energies are below the threshold at both sides of the channel. Uncertainties, sensitivities, and differences between theory and experiment are also discussed. The elimination of wall erosion in Hall thrusters solves a problem that has remained unsettled for more than five decades.},
doi = {10.1063/1.4862313},
journal = {Journal of Applied Physics},
number = 4,
volume = 115,
place = {United States},
year = {Tue Jan 28 00:00:00 EST 2014},
month = {Tue Jan 28 00:00:00 EST 2014}
}
  • The physics of magnetic shielding in Hall thrusters were validated through laboratory experiments demonstrating essentially erosionless, high-performance operation. The magnetic field near the walls of a laboratory Hall thruster was modified to effectively eliminate wall erosion while maintaining the magnetic field topology away from the walls necessary to retain efficient operation. Plasma measurements at the walls validate our understanding of magnetic shielding as derived from the theory. The plasma potential was maintained very near the anode potential, the electron temperature was reduced by a factor of two to three, and the ion current density was reduced by at least amore » factor of two. Measurements of the carbon backsputter rate, wall geometry, and direct measurement of plasma properties at the wall indicate that the wall erosion rate was reduced by a factor of 1000 relative to the unshielded thruster. These changes effectively eliminate wall erosion as a life limitation in Hall thrusters, enabling a new class of deep-space missions that could not previously be attempted.« less
  • We demonstrate by numerical simulations and experiments that the unmagnetized ion beam formed in a Hall thruster can be controlled by an applied magnetic field in a manner that reduces by 2-3 orders of magnitude deleterious ion bombardment of the containing walls. The suppression of wall erosion in Hall thrusters to such low levels has remained elusive for decades.
  • The efficiency of a plasma thruster can be improved if the plasma stream can be highly focused, so that there is maximum conversion of thermal energy to the directed energy. Such focusing can be potentially achieved through the use of magnetic nozzles, but this introduces the potential problem of detachment of plasma from the magnetic field lines tied to the nozzles. Simulations and laboratory testing are used to investigate these processes for the high power helicon (HPH) thruster, which has the capacity of producing a dense (10{sup 18}-10{sup 20} m{sup -3}) energetic (tens of eV) plasma stream which can bemore » both supersonic and super-Alfvenic within a few antenna wavelengths. In its standard configuration, the plasma plume generated by this device has a large opening angle, due to relatively high thermal velocity and rapid divergence of the magnetic field. With the addition of a magnetic nozzle system, the plasma can be directed/collimated close to the pole of the nozzle system causing an increase in the axial velocity of the plasma, as well as an increase in the Alfven Mach number. As such the magnetic field of the nozzle is insufficient to pull the plasma back to the spacecraft, i.e., plasma attachment is not a problem for the system. Laboratory results show that the specific impulse (Isp) of the system can be increased by {approx}30% by the addition of the nozzle due to the conversion of thermal energy into directed energy in association with a highly collimated profile. An interesting feature of the system is that self-collimation of the beam is expected to occur during continuous operation through plasma currents induced downstream from the magnetic nozzle. These currents lead to magnetic fields that have a smaller divergence than the original vacuum magnetic field so that the following plasma will be more collimated than the proceeding plasma. This self-focusing can lead to beam propagation over extended distances.« less
  • Results based on a local linear stability analysis of the Hall thruster discharge are presented. A one-dimensional azimuthal framework is used including three species: neutrals, singly charged ions, and electrons. A simplified linear model is developed with the aim of deriving analytical expressions to characterize the stability of the ionization region. The results from the local analysis presented here indicate the existence of an instability that gives rise to an azimuthal oscillation in the +E × B direction with a long wavelength. According to the model, the instability seems to appear only in regions where the ionization and the electric field makemore » it possible to have positive gradients of plasma density and ion velocity at the same time. A more complex model is also solved numerically to validate the analytical results. Additionally, parametric variations are carried out with respect to the main parameters of the model to identify the trends of the instability. As the temperature increases and the neutral-to-plasma density ratio decreases, the growth rate of the instability decreases down to a limit where azimuthal perturbations are no longer unstable.« less
  • The effect of the magnetic field configuration on the anode fall in an E-vectorxB-vector discharge of a Hall thruster is studied both experimentally and theoretically. Plasma potential, electron temperature, and plasma density in the near-anode region are measured with a biased probe in three configurations of the magnetic field. It is observed that the anode fall in a Hall thruster can be changed from negative to positive by creating a magnetic field configuration with a zero magnetic field region. Similar configurations are utilized in some advanced Hall thrusters, like an ATON thruster. Results of the measurements are employed to modelmore » a Hall thruster with different magnetic field configurations, including the one with a zero-field region. Different anode sheath regimes observed experimentally are used to set the boundary conditions for the quasineutral plasma. Numerical solutions obtained with a hydrodynamic quasi-one-dimensional model suggest that varying the magnetic field configuration affects the electron mobility both inside and outside the channel, as well as the plasma density distribution along the axis.« less