Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Advisor

Lyon B King

Abstract

This research investigated annular field reversed configuration (AFRC)devices for high power electric propulsion by demonstrating the acceleration of these plasmoids using an experimental prototype and measuring the plasmoid's velocity, impulse, and energy efficiency.

The AFRC plasmoid translation experiment was design and constructed with the aid of a dynamic circuit model. Two versions of the experiment were built, using underdamped RLC circuits at 10 kHz and 20 kHz. Input energies were varied from 100 J/pulse to 1000 J/pulse for the 10 kHz bank and 100 J/pulse for the 20 kHz bank. The plasmoids were formed in static gas fill of argon, from 1 mTorr to 50 mTorr. The translation of the plasmoid was accomplished by incorporating a small taper into the outer coil, with a half angle of 2°. Magnetic field diagnostics, plasma probes, and single-frame imaging were used to measure the plasmoid's velocity and to diagnose plasmoid behavior. Full details of the device design, construction, and diagnostics are provided in this dissertation.

The results from the experiment demonstrated that a repeatable AFRC plasmoid was produced between the coils, yet failed to translate for all tested conditions. The data revealed the plasmoid was limited in lifetime to only a few (4-10) μs, too short for translation at low energy. A global stability study showed that the plasma suffered a radial collapse onto the inner wall early in its lifecycle. The radial collapse was traced to a magnetic pressure imbalance. A correction made to the circuit was successful in restoring an equilibrium pressure balance and prolonging radial stability by an additional 2.5 μs. The equilibrium state was sufficient to confirm that the plasmoid current in an AFRC reaches a steady-state prior to the peak of the coil currents. This implies that the plasmoid will always be driven to the inner wall, unless it translates from the coils prior to peak coil currents. However, ejection of the plasmoid before the peak coil currents results in severe efficiency losses. These results demonstrate the difficulty in designing an AFRC experiment for translation as balancing the different requirements for stability, balance, and efficient translation can have competing consequences.

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