Complexity of the Physics

The first results obtained with ECRA have been encouraging, but the complexity of the physics at play has been an obstacle for the understanding and development of the technology. Thus in-depth numerical and experimental investigations will take place in MINOTOR.

Numerical challenges

Plasma wave interaction problem
Internal plasma dynamic problems
External plasma dynamic problem

  • Plasma-wave interaction problem.
  • Internal plasma dynamics in the source (incl. generation, losses and transport).
  • External plasma dynamics in the magnetic nozzle (incl. acceleration and detachment).

  • The wave timescale and all plasma dynamic timescales are very different, enabling the study of plasma generation, loss, and transport as an uncoupled problem from wave propagation and absorption. The internal and external plasma dynamics are coupled together and need inputs from each other if treated separately

    Experimental challenges

  • All the characteristics of the thruster performance, even at first order, have to be measured in vacuum with calibrated probes. Indeed, the microwave generator only provides the amount the power fed into the thruster, which gives no indication of beam current or ion energy.
  • Good vacuum (< 10-5 mbar) is also necessary for the actual representative operation of magnetic nozzle thrusters.
  • Experimental challenges