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Proceedings Paper

Polymers as fuel for laser plasma thrusters: a correlation of thrust with material and plasma properties by mass spectrometry
Author(s): Lukas Urech; Thomas Lippert; Claude R. Phipps; Alexander Wokaun
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Paper Abstract

The micro laser plasma thruster (μLPT) is a micro propulsion device, designed for the steering and propelling of small satellites (1 to 10 kg). A laser is focused onto a polymer layer on a substrate to form a plasma. The thrust produced by this plasma is used to control the satellite motion. To understand the influence of the specific properties of the polymers, three different "high"- and "low"-energetic polymers were tested: poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) as a low-energetic reference polymer that showed the best properties among commercial polymers, a glycidyl azide polymer (GAP), and poly(vinyl nitrate) (PVN) as high-energetic polymers. It was necessary to dope the polymers with carbon nanoparticles or an IR-dye to achieve absorption at the irradiation wavelength in the near IR. Decomposition into smaller fragmentation was measured for the energetic polymers than for PVC corresponding well to the higher momentum coupling coefficient of the energetic polymers, which indicates that more thrust can be gained from a chosen incident laser power. The measurements of the kinetic energies of selected decomposition fragments revealed no significant difference between the different carbon doped polymers. Only for GAP with the IR-dye a change in the ratio between ions with different kinetic energy was observed with increasing fluence. More C+ ions with higher kinetic energy were detected at higher fluences. No correlation between the kinetic energies of the ablation products and the specific impulse could be established for the obtained data.

Paper Details

Date Published: 7 June 2006
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 6261, High-Power Laser Ablation VI, 626114 (7 June 2006); doi: 10.1117/12.672776
Show Author Affiliations
Lukas Urech, Paul Scherrer Institut (Switzerland)
Thomas Lippert, Paul Scherrer Institut (Switzerland)
Claude R. Phipps, Photonic Associates LLC (United States)
Alexander Wokaun, Paul Scherrer Institut (Switzerland)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6261:
High-Power Laser Ablation VI
Claude R. Phipps, Editor(s)

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