Bismuth Hall thruster I: Simulation-suggested design and performance
A two-dimensional radial-axial hybrid simulation of the xenon-fueled Stanford Hall Thruster has been adapted to model a bismuth-fed thruster with varying channel geometry. The simulation treats the electrons as a quasi-one-dimensional fluid and the neutrals and ions as discrete superparticles advanced using a particle-in-cell (PIC) approach. Since experimental data of the electron cross-field mobility does not exist for the bismuth-fueled thruster, a model for electron transport based on shear suppression of plasma turbulence is used to compute a mobility from simulated plasma properties. While the bismuth propellant showed poor performance with an 8 cm channel length, results improved significantly as the simulated channel was shortened to 3.3 and 2.4 cm. The simulation of bismuth propellant at the shortest channel length provided significantly improved ionization fraction, thrust, efficiency, and thrust-to-power compared to xenon propellant on either the 8 cm or 2.4 cm channel, as can be expected due to the higher atomic mass and lower ionization potential of bismuth. With results indicating that optimal performance of the bismuth thruster occurs with a sub-3 cm channel length, such a design is suggested for a developing laboratory-model bismuth thruster.
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