PhD Studentship: Design of Plasma Micro-Thrusters

United Kingdom
Dec 23, 2015
Dec 22, 2016
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time

PhD Studentship: Design of Plasma Micro-Thrusters

Aerodynamics & Flight Mechanics Research Group

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:   Thursday 22 December 2016
Reference:  671815AK

Project Reference: AACE-AFM-144

Project Themes:  Fluid Dynamics, Transportation

We propose to adapt a 3 electrode Dielectric Barrier Discharge (DBD) actuator to create an effective Plasma Micro-Thruster, using numerical work to develop a 2D plasma model and couple this to the underlying fluid flow field to model the impact of the plasma pumping and correlate this with experimental data to:

• Minimise internal dimensions, without incurring undue aerodynamic losses, using the best choice of dielectric thickness and electrode structure.
• Maximise plasma momentum exchange within the air - without risking damaging high voltage flashover.
• Examine the effect of planar and pulse waves generated during plasma propagation - looking for ways to spread the zone of the thruster’s influence farther into the flow so this leads to higher thrust and makes the body of moving air less vulnerable to viscous losses.
• Use these specifications to generate the optimum differential pressure within the physical model of the Plasma Micro-Thruster. This data can then be scaled-up for the construction of a viable air pump.

Initially this work will have important implications for the air quality that aircrew are exposed to during their working lives because the spin off from this research will be used to develop a lightweight Cabin Air Compressor with no moving parts that avoids the use of turbofan by-pass air - Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE) have been taking a keen interest in our progress.

Requirements of the candidate

We would expect you to have a good engineering /fluid dynamics degree and have sufficient perception to plan and formulate boundary parameters to discretise the boundary conditions within the micro-thruster. The high voltage requirements and shock wave dynamics will also demand a mix of engineering skills from you.
Funding Sponsorship comes from Southampton University, Airbus (who are resident on the site) and Trintech Services Ltd who are developing the manufacturing process for this system.

Additional information

Use will be made of the plasma lab at Boldrewood and the high voltage power supplies and microfabrication facilities at the Airbus Laboratories in Southampton.

So little is understood about the detail of cold plasma modelling, because it is still in its infancy, there is good scope for career development in this field - especially in aerospace and pharmaceutical industry.

Over the research period, one review takes place in the first two months with two further contacts for the remainder of the year followed by two for each successive year

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact John Shrimpton, AFM research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2854.

To apply please use the following link and select Faculty of Engineering and the Environment.