The expansion of a high-temperature fusion plasma through an expanding magnetic field is a process common to most fusion propulsion concepts. The propulsive efficiency of this process has a strong bearing on the overall performance of fusion propulsion. In order to simulate the expansion of a fusion plasma, a concept has been developed in which a high velocity plasma is first stagnated in a converging magnetic field to high (100s of eV) temperatures, then expanded though a converging/diverging magnetic nozzle. As a first step in constructing this experiment, a gigawatt magnetoplasmadynamic plasma accelerator was constructed to generate the initial high velocity plasma and has been characterized. The source is powered by a 1.6 MJ, 1.6 ms pulse forming network. The device has been operated with currents up to 300 kA and power levels up to 200 MWe. These values are among the highest levels reached in an magnetoplasmadynamic thruster. The device operation has been characterized by quasi-steady voltage and current measurements for helium mass flow rates from 0.5 to 27 g s-1. Probe results for downstream plasma density and electron temperature are also presented. The source behavior is examined in terms of current theories for magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Condensed Matter Physics