Expansion tunnel characterization and development of non-intrusive microwave plasma diagnostics
Dufrene, Aaron T.
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The focus of this research is the development of non-intrusive microwave diagnostics for characterization of expansion tunnels. The main objectives of this research are to accurately characterize the LENS XX expansion tunnel facility, develop non-intrusive RF diagnostics that will work in short-duration expansion tunnel testing, and to determine plasma properties and other information that might otherwise be unknown, less accurate, intrusive, or more difficult to determine through conventional methods. Testing was completed in LENS XX, a new large-scale expansion tunnel facility at CUBRC, Inc. This facility is the largest known expansion tunnel in the world with an inner diameter of 24 inches, a 96 inch test section, and an end-to-end length of more than 240 ft. Expansion tunnels are currently the only facilities capable of generating high-enthalpy test conditions with minimal or no freestream dissociation or ionization. However, short test times and freestream noise at some conditions have limited development of these facilities. To characterize the LENS XX facility, the first step is to evaluate the facility pressure, vacuum, temperature, and other mechanical restrictions to derive a theoretical testing parameter space. Test condition maps are presented for a variety of parameters and gases based on 1D perfect gas dynamics. Test conditions well beyond 10 km/s or 50 MJ/kg are identified with minimum test times of 200 us. Additionally, a four-chamber expansion tube configuration is considered for extending the stagnation enthalpy range of the facility even further. A microwave shock speed diagnostic measures primary and secondary shock speeds accurately every 30 in. down the entire length of the facility resulting in a more accurate determination of freestream conditions required for computational comparisons. The high resolution of this measurement is used to assess shock speed attenuation as well as secondary diaphragm performance. Negligible shock attenuation is reported over a large range of test conditions and gases, and this is attributed to the large diameter of the LENS XX driven and expansion tubes. Shock tube boundary layer growth solutions based on Mirels's theory confirm LENS XX test conditions should not be adversely affected by viscous effects. Mirels's theory is applied to both large- and small-scale expansion tube facilities to determine displacement thicknesses, and quasi one-dimensional solutions show how viscous effects become significant in long, smaller diameter facilities. In collaboration with ElectroDynamic Applications, Inc., (EDA) plasma frequency measurements are made in two different configurations using a swept microwave frequency power reflection measurement. Electric field characteristics of EDA's probe are presented and show current probe design is ideal for measuring properties of shock layers that are 1-2 cm thick. Electron density and radio frequency communication characteristics through a shock layer on the lee side of a capsule up to 8.9 km/s and in a stagnation configuration up to 5.4 km/s in air are reported.