Ion collimation and in-channel potential shaping using in-channel electrodes for hall effect thrusters
Xu, Kunning Gabriel
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This work focuses on improving the thrust-to-power ratio of Hall effect thrusters using in-channel electrodes to reduce ion-wall neutralization and focus the ion beam. A higher thrust-to-power ratio would give Hall thrusters increased thrust with the limited power available on spacecraft. A T-220HT Hall thruster is modified in this work to include a pair of ring electrodes within inside the discharge channel. The electrodes are biased above anode potential to repel ions from the walls and toward the channel centerline. Theoretical analysis of ion loss factors indicate that ion-wall neutralizations remove almost 13% of the total ions produced. Reduced wall losses could significantly improve the thruster performance without increased discharge power or propellant consumption. The thruster performance, plume ion characteristics, and internal plasma contours are experimentally measured. The plume and internal plasma measurements are important to determine the cause of the performance changes. The thruster is tested in three conditions: no electrode bias, low bias (10 V), and high bias (30 V). The performance measurements show the electrodes do indeed improve the thrust and thrust-to-power ratio, the latter only at the low bias level. Adding bias increases the ion density and decreases the plume angle compared to the no bias case. The plume measurements indicate that the performance improvements at low bias are due to increased ion number density as opposed to increased ion energy. The increased ion density is attributed to reduced wall losses, not increased ionization. The in-channel measurements support this due to little change in the acceleration potential or the electron temperature. At the high bias level, a drop in thrust-to-power ratio is seen, even though a larger increase in thrust is observed. This is due to increased power draw by the electrodes. Plume measurements reveal the increased thrust is due to ion acceleration. The internal measurements show increased acceleration potential and electron energy which can lead to increased ionization. At the high bias condition, the electrodes become the dominant positive terminal in the thruster circuit. This causes the increased ion acceleration and the creation of domed potential contours that conform to the near-wall cusp-magnetic fields. The domed contours produce focused electric fields, which cause the decreased wall losses and plume angle.