Scaling laws for electromagnetic pulsed plasma thrusters

J. K. Ziemer, E. Y. Choueiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The scaling laws of pulsed plasma thrusters operating in the predominantly electromagnetic acceleration mode (EM-PPT) are investigated theoretically and experimentally using gas-fed pulsed plasma thrusters. A fundamental characteristic velocity that depends on the inductance per unit length and the square root of the capacitance to the initial inductance ratio is identified. An analytical model of the discharge current predicts scaling laws in which the propulsive efficiency is proportional to the EM-PPT performance scaling number, defined here as the ratio of the exhaust velocity to the EM-PPT characteristic velocity. The importance of the effective plasma resistance in improving the propulsive performance is shown. To test the validity of the predicted scaling relations, the performance of two gas-fed pulsed plasma thruster designs (one with coaxial electrodes and the other with parallel-plate electrodes), was measured under 70 different operating conditions using an argon plasma. The measurements demo nstrate that the impulse bit scales linearly with the integral of the square of the discharge current as expected for an electromagnetic accelerator. The measured performance scaling is shown to be in good agreement with the theoretically predicted scaling. Normalizing the exhaust velocity and the impulse-to-energy ratio by the EM-PPT characteristic velocity collapses almost all the measured data onto single curves that uphold the general validity of these scaling laws.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-405
Number of pages11
JournalPlasma Sources Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics


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