A HiPIMS plasma source with a magnetic nozzle that accelerates ions: application in a thruster
Department of Applied and Plasma Physics, School of Physics, University of Sydney NSW 2006, Australia
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Revised: 2 September 2016
Accepted: 26 October 2016
Published online: 9 January 2017
We demonstrate a solid fuel electrodeless ion thruster that uses a magnetic nozzle to collimate and accelerate copper ions produced by a high power impulse magnetron sputtering discharge (HiPIMS). The discharge is initiated using argon gas but in a practical device the consumption of argon could be minimised by exploiting the self-sputtering of copper. The ion fluence produced by the HiPIMS discharge was measured with a retarding field energy analyzer (RFEA) as a function of the magnetic field strength of the nozzle. The ion fraction of the copper was determined from the deposition rate of copper as a function of substrate bias and was found to exceed 87%. The ion fluence and ion energy increased in proportion with the magnetic field of the nozzle and the energy of the ions was found to follow a Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution with a directed velocity. The effectiveness of the magnetic nozzle in converting the randomized thermal motion of the ions into a jet was demonstrated from the energy distribution of the ions. The maximum ion exhaust velocity of at least 15.1 km/s, equivalent to a specific impulse of 1543 s was measured which is comparable to existing Hall thrusters and exceeds that of Teflon pulsed plasma thrusters.
© EDP Sciences, 2016