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Charge-Exchange Collision Dynamics and Ion Engine Grid Geometry Optimization


Morris, Bradford S. (2007) Charge-Exchange Collision Dynamics and Ion Engine Grid Geometry Optimization. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/W996-M220.


The development of a new three-dimensional model for determining the absolute energy distribution of ions at points corresponding to spacecraft surfaces to the side of an ion engine is presented. The ions resulting from elastic collisions, both charge-exchange (CEX) and direct, between energetic primary ions and thermal neutral xenon atoms are accounted for. Highly resolved energy distributions of CEX ions are found by integration over contributions from all points in space within the main beam formed by the primary ions.

The sputtering rate due to impingement of these ions on a surface is calculated. The CEX ions that obtain significant energy (10 eV or more) in the collision are responsible for the majority of the sputtering, though this can depend on the specific material being sputtered. In the case of a molybdenum surface located 60 cm to the side of a 30 cm diameter grid, nearly 90% of the sputtering is due to the 5% of ions with the highest collision exit energies. Previous models that do not model collision energetics cannot predict this. The present results agree with other models and predict that the majority of the ion density is due to collisions where little to no energy is transferred.

The sputtering model is combined with a grid-structure model in an optimization procedure where the sputtering rate at specified locations is minimized by adjustment of parameters defining the physical shape of the engine grids. Constraints are imposed that require that the deflection of the grid under a specified load does not exceed a maximum value, in order to ensure survivability of the grids during launch. To faciliate faster execution of the calculations, simplifications based on the predicted behavior of the CEX ions are implemented. For diametrically opposed sputtering locations, a rounded barrel-vault shape reduces the expected sputtering rate by up to 30% in comparison to an NSTAR-shaped grid.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:differential cross-section; electric propulsion; ion engine; NSTAR; sputtering
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Minor Option:Astronomy
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Shepherd, Joseph E.
Group:GALCIT, Astronomy Department, Explosion Dynamics Laboratory
Thesis Committee:
  • Shepherd, Joseph E. (chair)
  • Leonard, Anthony
  • Culick, Fred E. C.
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami
  • Johnson, Lee K.
Defense Date:22 September 2006
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-02282007-154751
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:807
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:28 Feb 2007
Last Modified:15 Jan 2021 23:35

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