June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
October 19, 2019
In support of its “Learn by Doing” pedagogical philosophy, the Aerospace Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA has developed electrospray thruster platforms for both graduate research education and course based undergraduate education purposes. Having numerous applications in precision attitude control and propulsion of small satellite platforms, electrospray thrusters are low thrust, high efficiency devices that use electrostatic fields to accelerate droplets of non-volatile liquid propellants. These thrusters present unique educational opportunities to expose students to comparatively novel technologies in a laboratory setting, requiring only modest university resources and development time.
Two thruster platforms, one research oriented and one education oriented, were developed in parallel with disparate design considerations. The research-oriented platform has fidelity to practical applications, ensuring modularity to support a wide variety of potential research studies. The research system can function as a single emitter system to study the formation of Taylor cones, backscatter effects, and the electrostatic principles involved, or as a linear array to study the interactions of the emitter tips with each other. The modularity of the design exposes research students to the fundamental processes involved with electrospray thrusters, with the fidelity of the system to practical applications ensuring a high quality of research can be undertaken.
In contrast, the educational electrospray thruster is low cost to construct and maintain, focuses on demonstration of core principles, and provides students a highly interactive experience. The educational platform has a planar array of ten emitters followed by an extractor grid and an accelerator grid using glycerol as a propellant. A collector plate downstream collects the expelled propellant so students can measure total mass used, which when combined with the time of operation and electrical conditions is used to calculate thruster performance. This indirect method of gathering force data is an inexpensive alternative to using a precision thrust balance, and by using the principles of operation of the thruster to calculate thrust rather than just measuring it directly, the students gain a deeper understanding of electrospray thruster technologies and propulsion principles.
Greig, A., & Powaser, A., & Howe, D., & McGehee, W. A. (2019, June), Disparate Electrospray Systems for Undergraduate and Graduate Education Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32669
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