The University of Michigan
Department of Aerospace Engineering
| Plasmadynamics & Electric Propulsion Laboratory |
PEPL Research Projects
Nested-Channel Hall Thrusters
To improve upon the thruster system power per unit mass of traditional single channel Hall thrusters, a unique nested channel Hall thruster was developed at PEPL. This project studies the performance and plume characteristics of various nested channel thruster configurations to enhance understanding of discharge channel interactions and to study high-thrust and high-Isp modes of operation. The success of the 1st-generation, <20 kW, nested channel thruster (the X2) has demonstrated that a 200 kW version (under development) could easily surpass the performance of VASIMR. [view more project details...]
High-power Hall Thrusters
The focus of this project is the research and development of advanced high-power (≥5 kW) Hall effect thrusters. Project goals include enhanced efficiency (>70%), high thrust-to-power operation, and prolonged lifetime. An improved high-power Hall thruster is designed, built, and tested by PEPL about every two to three years. Extensive diagnostics and measurements (probes, lasers, thrust, etc.) from these thrusters has strengthened understanding of the devices and the governing physics leading to higher performance with each new thruster generation. [view more project details...]
Nanosatellite Thrusters
The goal of this project is to design, test, and fly thrusters (e.g. CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster) for nanosatellites(1-10 kg). The CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT) consists of a radio-frequency plasma source and a magnetic nozzle. These thrusters are designed to generate 2 mN thrust with Isp in the 1000's for 10W of power (20mN for 100W pulsed). Expected lifetimes are greater than 20,000 hours. Development of these highly efficient propulsion systems enables many new missions for nanosatellites ranging from longer lifetime missions around Earth to interplanetary CubeSats. [view more project details...]
High-speed Thruster Plasmadynamics
This experimental effort explores the dynamic nature of the plasma discharged from modern Hall effect and other types of electric propulsion thrusters. Electrostatic probe measurements at an unprecedented rate of 100-kHz has spurred the development of a 1-MHz system capable of simultaneously measuring electron density, electron temperature, electron energy distribution function, plasma potential, and floating potential. Insight gained from this endeavor aids the development of: advanced high-power Hall thrusters, pulsed thrusters, and advanced thruster plasma simulations. [view more project details...]
Non-intrusive Plasma Diagnostics: Time-resolved
Ongoing research with non-intrusive laser diagnostics includes LIF (laser-induced fluorescence), laser-doppler velocimetry, and time-resolved laser measurements. [view more project details...]
Nanoparticle Micropropulsion
The Nanoparticle Field Extraction Thruster (NanoFET) is a micropropulsion technology that electrostatically charges and accelerates micro- and nano-particles to generate thrust. Designed in a flat-panel configuration for scalability to different spacecraft power levels, NanoFET is anticipated to provide a large propulsive envelope capable of accomplishing a range of missions not currently possible with a single propulsion system. In addition, NanoFET also has potential applications as a generalized nano-particle accelerator for terrestrial uses in the fields of materials processing, environmental remediation, and biomedicine. [view more project details...]
Near-wall Hall Thruster Physics
This project is an experimental characterization of the near-wall region in Hall thrusters and its implications on performance and lifetime. Electrostatic probes are flush-mounted to the inner and outer discharge channel walls to enable measurements otherwise unobtainable with rapidly inserted probes or laser diagnostics. [view more project details...]
Optical Study of Hall Thruster Channel Wall Erosion
This project revolves around the use of various advanced optical diagnostics like laser-induced fluorescence and cavity ring-down spectroscopy to study the physical phenomenon of Hall thruster channel wall erosion in near-real time. [view more project details...]
Environmental Plasmas
Using helicon and microwave plasma sources developed at PEPL in recent years, an array of diverse research projects have investigated various environmental plasmas that include: hypersonic re-entry vehicle communication, hydrogen production, and CO2 breakdown. [view more project details...]
Test Cell Project
Using a helicon source developed at PEPL, the test cell project investigates the time-resolved nature of energy equilibrium in a relatively simple plasma to aid the development of advanced plasma simulation codes, and to begin to tackle the challenge of electron energy distribution function (EEDF) control. [view more project details...]
Gasdynamic Mirror Thruster
A new microwave discharge source is presently under development at PEPL for GDM (gasdynamic mirror) thruster experiments. [view more project details...]
Clustered Hall Thrusters
A variety of clustered Hall thruster research projects have been active in recent years at PEPL whose facilities are well suited to simultaneously testing several lower-power thrusters. Thruster interactions have been measured in the plasma plume, clustered thrust, and time-resolved dynamics. [view more project details...]
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