Collisionless electron cooling in a plasma thruster plume: experimental validation of a kinetic model

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IOP Publishing Ltd.
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A central challenge in the modeling of the near-collisionless expansion of a plasma thruster plume into vacuum is the inadequacy of traditional fluid closure relations for the electron species, such as isothermal or adiabatic laws, because the electron response in the plume is essentially kinetic and global. This work presents the validation of the kinetic plasma plume model presented in (Merino et al 2018 Plasma Sources Sci. Technol. 27 035013) against the experimental plume measurements of a SPT-100-ML Hall thruster running on xenon presented in (Giono et al 2018 Plasma Sources Sci. Technol. 27 015006). The model predictions are compared against the experimentally-determined axial profiles of electric potential, electron density, and electron temperature, and the radial electric potential profile, for 6 different test cases, in the far expansion region between 0.5 and 1.5 m away from the thruster exit. The model shows good agreement with the experimental data and the error is within the experimental uncertainty. The extrapolation of the model to the thruster exit plane and far downstream is consistent with the expected trends with varying discharge voltage and mass flow rate. The lumped-model value of the polytropic cooling exponent gamma is similar for all test cases and varies in the range 1.26-1.31.
Electric propulsion, Hall effect thrusters, Kinetic models, Collisionless plasma, Plasma plumes
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Plasma sources science & technology, 29(3), 035029, March 2020, 10 pp.