In order to develop inductive electric propulsion as a flexible, throttleable technology for future space operations, a greater understanding of discharge transitions within the inductive plasma generator discharge chamber is required. This paper presents a non-intrusive method to determine the conditions under which transitions between the capacitive, low inductive, and high inductive regimes occur with greater accuracy, as well as determining the proportion of a single discharge cycle the plasma spends in either capacitive or inductive regime. Such a method allows a more robust method of classification of inductive discharges than previously available and can be applied to numerous gases. This approach presents an advantage over previous methods which relied on strongly radiating or thermally reactive gases to exhibit certain behaviour (due to the restriction of classical diagnostics on such high power sources) before a transition could be confirmed. This paper presents results from the proposed method applied to a pure oxygen plasma as well as two combinations of argon and oxygen (at 1:1 and 3:2 Ar:O2 volumetric ratios) in order to assess the tunability of electromagnetic regime transitions through modifications of gas composition rather than mechanical alterations. Transitions to the higher inductive mode were observed for much lower input powers for the argon-oxygen blends, as was expected, allowing final discharge conditions to occupy the inductive regime for 94% and 85% of a single discharge cycle for the 3:2 and 1:1 Ar:O2 mixtures, respectively. Pure oxygen achieved a maximum inductive proportion of 71% by comparison.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Condensed Matter Physics