Eur. Phys. J. Appl. Phys.
Volume 84, Number 2, November 2018
|Number of page(s)||18|
|Section||Plasma, Discharges and Processes|
|Published online||28 November 2018|
A thruster using magnetic reconnection to create a high-speed plasma jet
Applied and Plasma Physics, School of Physics, University of Sydney,
2 Space Physics, School of Physics, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
* e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received in final form: 8 June 2018
Accepted: 14 September 2018
Published online: 28 November 2018
Plasma thrusters propel spacecraft by the application of Lorentz forces to ionized propellants. Despite evidence that Lorentz forces resulting from magnetic reconnection in solar flares and Earth's magnetopause produce jets of energetic particles, magnetic reconnection has only recently been considered as a means of accelerating plasma in a thruster. Based on theoretical principles, a pulsed magnetic reconnection thruster consisting of two parallel-connected slit coaxial tubes was constructed. The thruster was operated in argon plasma produced by RF energy at 13.56 MHz. A 1.0 ms current pulse of up to 1500 A was applied to the tubes. Three results provide evidence for magnetic reconnection. (1) The production of high-energy electrons resembling the outflow that is observed in the reconnection of field lines in solar flares and in laboratory experiments. (2) The high-energy electron current coincided with the rise of the magnetic field in the thruster and was followed by a large ion current. (3) In accordance with known physics of magnetic reconnection, ion currents were found to increase as the plasma became less collisional. The Alfvén speed of the outflowing ions was calculated to be 8.48 × 103 m s−1 corresponding to an Isp of 860 s.
© EDP Sciences, 2018
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