Laser-sustained argon plasmas for thermal rocket propulsion

D. K. Zerkle, S. Schwartz, A. Mertogul, X. Chen, H. Krier, J. Mazumder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The results of the ongoing investigation of laser-sustained argon plasmas in the forced convective flow regime are reported. Plasma absorption and thermal efficiency are the key parameters measured. Flow velocities of up to 30 m/s at one atm to 13.6 m/s at 2.5 atm are imposed upon plasmas sustained at 2.5, 5.0, and 7.0 kW input laser powers, using either f/4 or f/7 beam focusing geometries. Absorption ranged from 55 to 91% and thermal efficiency ranged from 11 to 46%, depending upon the operating conditions. Absorptions and efficiencies this high have never before been reported and demonstrate that laser propulsion could be a practical orbital transfer concept. Spectroscopic analysis of the plasma core is used concurrently with conventional techniques to analyze plasma behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-45
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Propulsion and Power
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science

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