Low-temperature plasmas are prevalent in modern technology and current applications include semiconductor processing, television displays and propulsions systems for spacecraft. This project provides the opportunity to undertake international, collaborative research in low-temperature plasma physics with application to electric propulsion.
Recent research efforts have driven the development of compact, long-lasting propulsion systems. To increase their power efficiency and longevity, the potential use of plasma thrusters that generate a chargeneutral exhaust plume is of significant interest. This is because a cathode neutraliser (as installed on ion engines and Hall thrusters) is no longer required to ensure charge neutrality of the spacecraft and prevent beam stalling.
To maximise power efficiency and performance, a detailed understanding of the plasma physics is crucial. Compact plasma thrusters present additional challenges due to their limited diagnostic access. This project will therefore utilise state-of-the-art optical and numerical techniques to further our understanding of the physical mechanisms that operate on nanosecond timescales and ultimately drive performance.
Based at the York Plasma Institute in the Department of Physics, the studentship offers the opportunity to collaborate with international research partners at the SP3 Laboratory, Australian National University (ANU) and the Computational Plasma Science and Engineering Group (CPSEG), University of Michigan. During a funded University of York studentship, the student will be a member of the low-temperature plasma team. Our laboratory undertakes diverse and high-impact research in fields including semiconductor processing, thin films, green energy, plasma medicine and electric propulsion.