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Efficiency Mechanisms in Porous-Media Electrospray Thrusters

Michael R. Natisin, Henry L. Zamora, Zachary A. Holley, N. Ivan Arnold, Will A. McGehee, Michael R. Holmes,

Abstract: The overall propulsion efficiency for ion-mode electrospray thrusters has been predicted to be as high as 90%; however, experimental measurements currently fall far short of these predictions. Further complicating this is that for passively fed electrospray thrusters, the mass flow rate, which is required to obtain the propulsion efficiency and specific impulse, is not directly controlled or measured, and so this parameter is typically estimated by assuming all mass loss is due to the emitted ion current. Presented here is a detailed investigation into the efficiencies associated with a porous-media-based electrospray thruster operated in the purely ionic regime using the ionic-liquid propellant 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium tetrafluoroborate in both positive and negative ion emission modes. Measurements of performance metrics that affect thruster efficiency are discussed, including the transmission, angular, polydispersive, energy, and mass utilization efficiencies, in order to determine their impact on overall efficiency. The overall propulsion efficiency and specific impulse are also calculated using a variety of methods to better investigate how the assumptions made to estimate the mass flow rate affect these parameters. These results suggest that the efficiency of these devices may primarily be limited by the presence of additional mass loss mechanisms other than ion emission occurring during thruster operation.
Keywords: propulsion efficiency / ionic / electrospray thrusters / impulse / loss / flow / Media

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