Nonintrusive Microwave Diagnostics of Collisional Plasmas in Hall Thrusters and Dielectric Barrier Discharges

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Mark F. Reeder, PhD.


This research presents a numerical framework for diagnosing electron properties in collisional plasmas. Microwave diagnostics achieved a significant level of development during the middle part of the last century due to work in nuclear weapons and fusion plasma research. With the growing use of plasma-based devices in fields as diverse as space propulsion, materials processing and fluid flow control, there is a need for improved, flexible diagnostic techniques suitable for use under the practical constraints imposed by plasma fields generated in a wide variety of aerospace devices. Much of the current diagnostic methodology in the engineering literature is based on analytical diagnostic, or forward, models. The Appleton-Hartree formula is an oft-used analytical relation for the refractive index of a cold, collisional plasma. Most of the assumptions underlying the model are applicable to diagnostics for plasma fields such as those found in Hall Thrusters and dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) plasma actuators. Among the assumptions is uniform material properties, this assumption is relaxed in the present research by introducing a flexible, numerical model of diagnostic wave propagation that can capture the e effects of spatial gradients in the plasma state. The numerical approach is chosen for its flexibility in handling future extensions such as multiple spatial dimensions to account for scattering effects when the spatial extent of the plasma is small relative to the probing beam's width, and velocity dependent collision frequency for situations where the constant collision frequency assumption is not justified. The numerical wave propagation model (forward model) is incorporated into a general tomographic reconstruction framework that enables the combination of multiple interferometry measurements. The combined measurements provide a quantitative picture of the spatial variation in the plasma properties. Use of the model for reconstructions informs the choice of numerical discretization technique. The model must be fast, low-storage and accurate to be useful for computing reconstructions.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number

Not in DTIC


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