Ray-tracing WKB analysis of Whistler waves in non-uniform magnetic fields applied to space thrusters

A. Cardinali, D. Melazzi, M. Manente, D. Pavarin

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Radiofrequency magnetized cylindrical plasma sources are proposed for the development of space thrusters, whose thrust efficiency and specific impulse depend on the power coupled into the plasma. At this stage of research, emphasis has been on the absorption of Whistler wave energy by non-uniform plasmas but not much on the role played by the magneto-static confinement field, considered uniform, constant and aligned with the axis of the source. We present RAYWh (RAY-tracing Whistler), a three-dimensional (3D) ray-tracing solver for electromagnetic propagation and power deposition in cylindrical plasma sources for space plasma thrusters, where actual magnetic confinement configurations along with plasma density profiles are included. The propagation and absorption of Whistler waves are investigated by solving the 3D Maxwell-Vlasov model equations by a Wentzel-Kramers-Brillouin (WKB) asymptotic expansion. The reduced set of equations for the wave phase and for the square amplitude of the electric field is solved numerically by means of a modified Runge-Kutta algorithm. Unexpected cut-offs, resonances, radial reflections, mode conversions and power deposition profile of the excited waves are found, when realistic confinement magnetic fields are considered. An analysis of the influence of axial wavenumbers and the axial length of the system on the power deposition is presented. © 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Article number015013
Pages (from-to)-
JournalPlasma Sources Science and Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics

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