Gas Kinetic Study of Magnetic Field Effects on Plasma Plumes



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Plasma flow physics in magnetic nozzles must be clearly understood for optimal design of plasma propulsion devices. Toward that end, in this thesis we: i) perform an extensive literature survey of magnetic nozzle physics, ii) assess the validity of magnetohydrodynamics for studying magnetic nozzle physics, and iii) illustrate the effects of the Hall term in simple flows as well as in magnetic nozzle configurations through numerical experiments with the Magneto-Gas Kinetic Method (MGKM).

The crucial steps necessary for thrust generation in magnetic nozzles are energy conversion, plasma detachment, and momentum transfer. These three physical phenomena must be understood to optimize magnetic nozzle design. The operating dimensionless parameter ranges of six prominent experiments are considered and the corresponding mechanisms are discussed.

An order of magnitude analysis of the governing equations reveal: i) most magnetic nozzles under consideration operate at the edge of the continuum regime rendering continuum-based description and computation valid; ii) in the context of MHD framework, the generalized Ohm?s law must be used to capture all of the relevant physics.

This work also continues the development of the Magneto Gas Kinetic Method (MGKM) computational tool. Validation of the solver is performed in shock-tube and Hartmann channel flows in the Hall physics regime. Comparison with theory and available data is made whenever possible.

Novel numerical experiments of magnetic nozzle plasma jets in the Hall regime are performed, confirming the theoretically predicted azimuthal rotation of the plasma jet due to Hall physics. The primary conclusion from this work is that the addition of the Hall effect generates helical structures in magnetic nozzle plasma flows. Preliminary results are encouraging for future magnetic nozzle studies and further challenges are identified.