Development of a particle in cell code for the simulation of dual stage ion thrusters

Bramer, Elinor C (2014) Development of a particle in cell code for the simulation of dual stage ion thrusters. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis focuses on the design, development and testing of a two dimensional particle in
cell (PIC) code (PICSIE) written in Matlab. The code is applied to the specific problem
of modelling the performance of dual stage ion thrusters. The code simulates one full
aperture within dual stage ion thruster systems, focusing on the flow of ions through the
aperture. Only the ions have been included in the simulation in order to minimize running

The results produced by the simulation code are compared with results obtained from the
vacuum chamber testing of the DS4G prototype, along with results from other simulation
codes and research papers in order to verify the performance of the simulation code.
The Dual-Stage 4-Grid (DS4G) and Dual-Stage 3-Grid (DS3G) thrusters are both sim-
ulated in order to compare the performance of the two thrusters and assess the benefits
and disadvantages of including the fourth grid in a dual stage thruster system. Different
grid configurations are simulated in order to find the most efficient configuration of the
ion optics and accelerating voltages for each thruster, with the aim being to find the con-
figurations that produce the maximum particle momentum, thrust and specific impulse
while minimizing the rate of erosion of the ion optics and maximising the efficiency of
the thruster. These simulations are applied to the problem of deciding if the advantages
provided in using a 4th grid outweigh the disadvantages compared to the 3 grid design.
The results show that if erosion due to backstreaming ions is disregarded, including the
fourth grid in the thruster design results in no apparent advantages in terms of the perfor-
mance parameters studied in this work. The only noticeable difference between the three
and four grid cases is a significant increase in the change in ion momentum observed when
the fourth grid is not included in the design. The conclusion of the work is that the fourth
grid should not be included in the dual stage design unless a very long lifetime is required
and it is thought that erosion due to backstreaming will prevent the three grid thruster
from fulfilling this criteria.

The concept of propagating waves through the plasma within the ion thruster discharge
chamber is investigated, with the aim of discovering any benefits and improvements in
performance that may arise and forming a conclusion on whether further study on the
topic of waves within the discharge chamber may be beneficial. No improvements in per-
formance parameters were observed in this work, although further study in the area may
show benefits to introducing waves into the plasma.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Engineering and Design
Subjects: T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics > TL0500 Aeronautics. Aeronautical engineering
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2014 11:32
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2015 14:40

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