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Polymers Used as Fuel for Laser Plasma Thrusters in Small Satellites

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Final rept. 21 Aug 2003-21 Aug 2006

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This report results from a contract tasking Paul Scherrer Institut as follows Three different polymers GAP, PVN and PVC with two different absorbers carbon nanoparticles and an IR-dye Epolite 2057 have been investigated as fuel for the micro laser plasma thruster. GAP and PVN are energetic polymers with a high decomposition enthalpy of -3829 Jg PVN and -2053 Jg GAP. PVC was used as a less energetic the decomposition enthalpy of -418 Jg is much lower than for the other two polymers commercially available reference. The best overall performance was observed for GAP. In the ms thrust measurements a efficiency of 370 was obtained for GAPC, which means that chemically stored energy was transferred into thrust. In the fs measurements, higher thrust values were obtained for GAPIR than for GAPC. This is also in good correlation with the fs plasma emission measurements. The IR-dye lead to a higher fragmentation in the shadowgraphy measurements, which were performed at low fluences. The metal- and metal-oxidenanoparticles had no positive influence on the plasma and shockwave properties of GAPIR. In the ns mass spectrometry measurements, GAP showed the highest fragmentation and the fastest C ions. The highest energetic polymer PVN, showed the worst performance in all experiments at high fluences, and only a efficiency of 21 was obtained in the thrust measurements. In the mass spectrometry measurements, strong signals could be assigned to the solvent, which was used to produce the PVN film. Also strong thermal effects, like the formation of fibers and melting were observed. In the shadowgraphy measurements, which were performed in air and at low fluences, the fastest shockwave was observed for PVNIR. Additional doping with CuO slowed down the shockwave, but also reduced the thermal features. For PVC a efficiency of 50 was determined in the thrust measurements. At high laser fluences, PVC performed worse than GAP, but better than PVN.

Subject Categories:

  • Polymer Chemistry
  • Lasers and Masers
  • Cybernetics
  • Nuclear Physics and Elementary Particle Physics

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