Grubisic, Angelo N, Gabriel, Stephen B, Jiang, Liudi, Cranny, Andrew, Kraft, Michael and White, Neil
On-a-chip microdischarge thruster arrays inspired by photonic device technology for plasma television.
This study shows that the practical scaling of a hollow cathode thruster device to MEMS level should be possible albeit with significant divergence from traditional design. The main divergence is the need to operate at discharge pressures between 1-3bar to maintain emitter diameter pressure products of similar values to conventional hollow cathode devices. Without operating at these pressures emitter cavity dimensions become prohibitively large for maintenance of the hollow cathode effect and without which discharge voltage would be in the hundreds of volts as with conventional microdischarge devices. In addition this requires sufficiently constrictive orifice diameters in the 10?m – 50 ?m range for single cathodes or <5?m larger arrays. Operation at this pressure results in very small Debye lengths (4 -5.2pm) and leads to large reductions in effective work function (0.3 – 0.43eV) via the Schottky effect. Consequently, simple work function lowering compounds such as lanthanum hexaboride (LaB6) can be used to reduce operating temperature without the significant manufacturing complexity of producing porous impregnated thermionic emitters as with macro scale hollow cathodes, while still operating <1200°C at the emitter surface. The literature shows that LaB6 can be deposited using a variety of standard microfabrication techniques.
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