Laser propulsion using a molecular absorber

V. P. Chiravalle, R. B. Miles, E. Y. Choueiri

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Unlike the conventional approach of using a laser sustained plasma to heat a propellant, molecular absorption of laser energy makes it possible to avoid the frozen flow losses associated with the high temperature and complex chemistry of a plasma. The molecular absorption concept is developed by exploring several thermodynamic pathways using a 1-D fluid theory for energy addition in the supersonic regime and different pathways are shown in H-K coordinates. The absorption physics of a promising molecular absorber, SF6, is described at arbitrary laser beam intensities using a two-temperature non-equilibrium model, which is then applied to calculate the nozzle length required to achieve a specific impulse of 250 sec through a 300 K isothermal expansion in the supersonic section. The results of this conversative example case for energy addition illustrate that over a length of less than 1 m laser power on the order of 20 kW can be absorbed in the supersonic region of a 10 g/sec H2 flow without creating a plasma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 1998
Event34th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit, 1998 - Cleveland, United States
Duration: Jul 13 1998Jul 15 1998


Other34th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit, 1998
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering


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