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Numerical Study of Current Driven Instabilities and Anomalous Electron Transport in Hall-effect Thrusters


Plasma turbulence and the resulting anomalous electron transport due to azimuthal current driven instabilities in Hall-effect thrusters is a promising candidate for developing predictive models for the observed anomalous transport. A theory for anomalous electron transport and current driven instabilities has been recently studied by [Lafluer et al., 2016a]. Due to the extreme cost of fully resolving the Debye length and plasma frequency, hybrid plasma simulations utilizing kinetic ions and quasi-steady state fluid electrons have long been the principle workhorse methodology for Hall-effect thruster modeling. Using a reduced dimension particle in cell simulation implemented in the Thermophysics Universal Research Framework developed by the Air Force Research Lab, we show collective electron-wave scattering due to large amplitude azimuthal fluctuations of the electric field and the plasma density. These high-frequency and short wavelength fluctuations can lead to an effective cross-field mobility many orders of magnitude larger than what is expected from classical electron-neutral momentum collisions in the low neutral density regime. We further adapt the previous study by [Lampe et al., 1971] and [Stringer, 1964] for related current driven instabilities to electric propulsion relevant mass ratios and conditions. Finally, we conduct a preliminary study of resolving this instability with a modified hybrid simulation with the hope of integration with established hybrid Hall-effect thruster simulations.

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