Experimental Characterization of Plasma Detachment from Magnetic Nozzles
Cloutier, Paul A.; Chang-Diaz, Franklin R.
Doctor of Philosophy
Magnetic nozzles, like Laval nozzles, are observed in several natural systems and have application in areas such as electric propulsion and plasma processing. Plasma flowing through these nozzles is inherently tied to the field lines and must separate for momentum redirection or particle transport to occur. Plasma detachment and associated mechanisms from a magnetic nozzle are investigated. Experimental results are presented from the plume of the VASIMR® VX-200 device flowing along an axisymmetric magnetic nozzle and operated at two ion energies to explore momentum dependent detachment. The argon plume expanded into a 150m3 vacuum chamber where the background pressure was low enough that charge-exchange mean-free-paths were longer than experiment scale lengths. This magnetic nozzle system is demonstrated to hydrodynamically scale up to astrophysical plasmas, particularly the solar chromosphere, implying general relevance to all systems. Plasma parameters were mapped over a large spatial range using measurements from multiple plasma diagnostics. The data show that the plume does not follow the magnetic field lines. A mapped integration of the ion flux shows the plume may be divided into three regions where 1) the plume briefly follows the magnetic flux, 2) diverges quadratically before 3) expanding with linear trajectories. Transitioning from region 1→2, the ion flux departs from the magnetic flux suggesting ion detachment. An instability forms in region 2 driving an oscillating electric field that causes ions to expand before enhancing electron cross-field transport through anomalous resistivity. Transitioning from region 2→3 the electric field dissipates, the trajectories linearize, and the plume effectively detaches. A delineation of sub-to-super Alfvénic flow aligns well with the inflection points of the linearization without a change in magnetic topology. The detachment process is best described as a two part process: First, ions detach by a breakdown of the magnetic moment when the quantity |v/fcLB| becomes of order unity. Second, the turbulent electric field enhances electron transport up to a factor of 4±1 above collisional diffusion; electron cross-field velocities approximate that of the ions and depart on more centralized field lines. Electrons are believed to detach by breakdown of magnetic moment further downstream in the weaker magnetic field.
Plasma detachment; Magnetic nozzle; Electric propulsion; Magnetic moment breakdown; Loss of adiabaticity; More... Plasma turbulence; Plasma transport; Cross-field diffusion; Plasma diagnostics; Laboratory astrophysics scaling; Helicon plasma; Ion cyclotron heating; Experimental plasma physics Less...