Two-dimensional, three-fluid modeling of capillary plasma discharges in electrothermal mass accelerators

M. J. Esmond, A. L. Winfrey

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4 Scopus citations


Electrothermal (ET) plasma launchers have a wide array of applications as mass acceleration devices. An ET plasma launcher utilizes an ET plasma discharge to accelerate a projectile. ET plasma discharges are arc-driven capillary discharges that ablate liner materials and form partially ionized plasmas. ET plasma discharges are generated by driving current pulses through a capillary source. Current pulses typically have peak currents on the order of tens of kA with pulse lengths on the order of hundreds of μs. These types of plasma discharges have been explored for their application to military ballistics, electric thrusters, and nuclear fusion power. ET plasma discharges have been studied using 0D, 1D, and semi-2D fluid models. In this work, a three-fluid, fully two-dimensional model of ET plasma discharges is presented. First approximations used in the newly developed model and code are discussed and simulation results are compared with experiment. Simulation results indicate the development of back flow inside ET plasma discharges due to collisional drag forces between individual plasma species. This back flow is observed for simulations of ET plasma discharges receiving current pulses with peak currents of 10, 20, 30, and 40 kA. Simulation results also reveal the development of fluid perturbations near the breech of the plasma source. These perturbations cause variations in the plasma electrical conductivity and ultimately cause changes in the local ablation rate of the source liner. At higher current pulses, these perturbations are more localized in the region of the source closest to the breech. This effect causes a decrease in the ablated mass in this region relative to the region of the source experiencing the highest ablation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number215202
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number21
StatePublished - Apr 29 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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