Worcester Polytechnic Institute Electronic Theses and Dissertations Collection

Title page for ETD etd-010907-142804

Document Typethesis
Author NameSt. Rock, Brian Eric
TitleThermal-Fluid Analysis of a Lithium Vaporizer for a High Power Magnetoplasmadynamic Thruster
DepartmentMechanical Engineering
  • John J. Blandino, Advisor
  • Nikolaos A. Gatsonis, Committee Member
  • Michael A. Demetriou, Committee Member
  • Mark W. Richman, Graduate Committee Rep
  • Keywords
  • vaporizer
  • two-phase flow
  • electric propulsion
  • Date of Presentation/Defense2006-06-21
    Availability unrestricted


    A lithium vaporizer for a high-power magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thruster is modeled using a parallel approach. A one-dimensional, thermal-resistive network is developed and used to calculate the required vaporizer length and power as a function of various parameters. After comparing results predicted by this network model with preheat power data for a 200 kW MPD thruster, we investigate performance over a parameter space of interest for the Advanced Lithium-Fed, Applied-field, Lorentz Force Accelerator (ALFA2) thruster. Heater power sensitivity to cathode tube emissivity, mass flow rate, and vapor superheat are presented. The cold-start heater power for 80 mg/s is found to range from 3.38 to 3.60 kW, corresponding to a vaporizer (axial) length of 18 to 26 cm. The strongest drivers of vaporizer performance are cathode tube emissivity and a conduction heat sink through the mounting flange. Also, for the baseline ALFA2 case, it is shown that increasing the vapor superheat from 100 K to 300 K has the effect of lowering the vaporizer thermal efficiency from 57% to 49%.

    Also, a finite-volume computational fluid dynamic (CFD) is implemented in FLUENT 6.2 which includes conjugated heat transfer to the solid components of the cathode. This model uses a single-fluid mixture model to simulate the effects of the two-phase vaporizer flow with source terms that model the vaporization. This model provides a solution of higher fidelity by including three-dimensional fluid dynamics such as thermal and momentum boundary layers, as well as calculating a higher resolution temperature distribution throughout the cathode assembly. Results from this model are presented for three mass flow rates of interest (40 mg/s, 80 mg/s, and 120 mg/s). Using a fixed power and length taken from the conceptual ALFA2 design, the dryout point ranges from 12.3-17.6 cm from the base of the cathode assembly for 40 mg/s and 80 mg/s, respectively. For the 120 mg/s case, the two-phase flow never reaches dryout. Finally, results two modeling approaches are compare favorably, with a maximum disagreement of 13.0 percent in prediction of the dryout point and 4.2 percent in predictions of the exit temperature.

  • StRock.pdf

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