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  Plasma Propulsion for Space Applications


   Department of Physics

   Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The University of Auckland is conducting research into electric propulsion systems for small spacecraft. We are looking for one or more PhD candidates to (i) investigate fundamental physical processes of the helicon plasma thruster, (ii) miniature plasma thruster development or (iii) optimisation of the control and operation of a pulsed plasma thruster.

The University of Auckland collaborates in this research with the Australian National University, the Institute of Space Systems, Baylor University, University of Stuttgart and the DLR in Germany.

The ideal candidate will have skills or experience in:

* Theoretical and applied plasma physics, plasma propulsion, theoretical electrodynamics,

* Applied physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering,

* Electronics, microelectronics and embedded programming,

* Scientific computer programming, experimental data acquisition,

* Data analysis, modelling.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please follow these guidelines:

* Check your eligibility to take a PhD at The University of Auckland at https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/study/applications-and-admissions/entry-requirements/postgraduate-entry-requirements/doctoral-entry-requirements.html

* Please give an outline (500 words) of your intended topic and areas of interest for doctoral study. When you detail your research interest, please ensure you succinctly record:

* The area of research which particularly interests you.

---- Why you have chosen this area.

---- What you hope to achieve during your studies at the University of Auckland

---- How your proposed research relates to current and recent research in this area at the University of Auckland. See http://astrophysics-and-astronomy.blogs.auckland.ac.nz/spacecraft-trajectory-and-propulsion-research/ and specifically refer to the current laboratory and experimental assets set out in our published works:

Balkenhohl, Jakob, et al. "A review of low-power applied-field magnetoplasmadynamic thruster research and the development of an improved performance model." Journal of Electric Propulsion 2.1 (2023): 1. 

Filleul, F., Caldarelli, A., Charles, C., Boswell, R., Rattenbury, N., & Cater, J. (2022, June). Ion magnetization effects on plasma generation in a magnetic nozzle RF device. In 37th International Electric Propulsion Conference. Electric Rocket Propulsion Society, Boston

Filleul, F., Caldarelli, A., Charles, C., Boswell, R. W., Rattenbury, N., & Cater, J. (2021). Characterization of a new variable magnetic field linear plasma device. Physics of Plasmas, 28(12), 123514. 

Caldarelli, A., Filleul, F., Charles, C., Rattenbury, N., & Cater, J. (2021). Preliminary measurements of a magnetic steering system for RF plasma thruster applications. In AIAA Propulsion and Energy 2021 Forum (p. 3401). 

Caldarelli, A., Filleul, F., Charles, C., Boswell, R., Rattenbury, N., & Cater, J. (2022). Radial characterization of an ion beam in a deflected magnetic nozzle. Journal of Electric Propulsion, 1(1), 1-11. 

---- Email your statement, CV and academic record (including grades and subjects) to the contacts for this position.

Engineering (12) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

Excellent candidates for PhD research at The University of Auckland can compete for a University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship. These are competitive scholarships and are not restricted against nationality. It is important to note that these are hard to get -- the cut-off is based on a grade-point equivalent computed from your academic record. As a general rule, only GPEs in excess of 7.0 are considered competitive. You can get an informal estimate of your GPE here: View Website

Register your interest for this project


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