Validation of the DRACO Particle-in-Cell Code using Busek 200W Hall Thruster Experimental Data


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Virginia Tech


This thesis discusses the recent developments to the electric propulsion plume code DRACO as well as a validation and sensitivity analysis of the code using data from an AFRL experiment using a Busek 200 W Hall Thruster. DRACO is a PIC code that models particles kinematically while using finite differences schemes to solve the electric potential and field.

The DRACO code has been recently modified to improve simulation results, functionality and performance. A particle source has been added that uses the Hall Thruster device code HPHall as input for a source to model Hall Thrusters. The code is now also capable of using a non-uniform mesh that uses any combination of uniform, linear and exponential stretching schemes in any of the three directions. A stretched mesh can be used to refine simulation results in certain areas, such as the exit of a thruster, or improve performance by reducing the number of cells in a mesh. Finally, DRACO now has the capability of using a DSMC collision scheme as well as performing recombination collisions.

A sensitivity analysis of the newly upgraded DRACO code was performed to test the new functionalities of the code as well as validate the code using experimental data gathered at AFRL using a Busek 200 W Hall Thruster. A simulation was created that attempts to numerically recreate the AFRL experiment and the validation is performed by comparing the plasma potential, polytropic temperature, ion number density of the thruster plume as well as Faraday and ExB probe results. The study compares the newly developed HPHall source with older source models and also compares the variations of the HPHall source. The field solver and collision model used are also compared to determine how to achieve the best results using the DRACO code. Finally, both uniform and non-uniform meshes are tested to determine if a non-uniform mesh can be properly implemented to improve simulation results and performance.

The results from the validation and sensitivity study show that the DRACO code can be used to recreate a vacuum chamber simulation using a Hall Thruster. The best results occur when the newly developed HPHall source is used with a MCC collision scheme using a projected background neutral density and CEX collision tracking. A stretched mesh was tested and proved results that are as accurate as a uniform mesh, if not more accurate in locations of high mesh refinement.



Hall Thruster, DRACO, PIC, Electric Propulsion