Enhanced ionization of propellant through carbon nanotube growth on angled walls
Garvey, Alfred P.
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A benchmark to compare ion thrusters is the mass utilization factor (MUF). The MUF is the ratio of the ionization area to the total cross-sectional area of the thruster and is proportional to the amount of propellant gas that is ionized to produce thrust; a higher MUF means greater thrust generated. Previous work has shown that the mass utilization factor of a carbon nanotube (CNT)-coated angled nozzle is much higher in respect to a 2-dimensional configuration of the same. In other words, stacking concentric square rings of decreasing size would result in much more propellant being ionized than a thruster of constant width. In this thesis, several important benchmarks were set. First, building upon previous thesis work, an angled sidewall was etched into a silicon wafer, resulting in an equation that can be utilized to achieve different angles. Second, that etching process was able to be applied long enough to create a nozzle through the silicon wafer. Third, after successfully growing CNTs on the angled side walls of the nozzle, a mass utilization factor was calculated from the etched nozzle. Lastly, a method for calculating an ideal MUF (based on current modelling) was fashioned to provide a baseline comparison to future laboratory testing.
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