Current Experiments

Current Experiments in the Lab

lab capabilities

The High Power Helicon experiment was originally designed with multiple goals in mind, primarily to satisfy the need for a plasma source that can be scaled up to high output power levels without significantly increasing the physical size of the system. Initially the helicon was used as a plasma injection source for the Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion (M2P2) thruster. Transitioning to a thruster in its own right, we aimed to better understand the energy transfer from the helicon antenna to the plasma. The system was also intended to be a prototype thruster and source for magnetic nozzle experiments and more recently to study and improve the coupling between the helicon wave and the plasma particles downstream of the source. Recently, the lab has been experimenting with solid fuel thrusters and how they can couple into the Helicon experiment.


Lab Capabilities

lab capabilities lab capabilities

The APL has extensive history with high-power electronics testing, high-vacuum environment operation, and pulsed electric propulsion thrusters. We operate out of Johnson Hall on the University of Washington campus.

Instrumentation [PDF]

  • Main Vacuum Chamber: 3.5m length, 1.5m diameter. The chamber is vacuumed by a roughing pump and turbomolecular pump capable of maintaining a base pressure of 2μTorr.
  • Small Bell Jar: 100cm length, 44cm diameter. The chamber is vacuumed with a roughing and turbomolecular pump. A 2μm dust trap was placed between the chamber and the pumping system to prevent PPT ejecta from reaching and damaging the turbopump blades. The chamber houses experiments operating at μTorr and atmospheric background pressures.
  • 100 sq. ft. screen room for EM noise protection
  • 180 sq. ft. class-10,000 clean room for final experiment prep
  • UW machine shop access for PLA/ABS 3D printers, programmable mill, water jet, high temperature metallurgy
  • The APL is equipped for fiber optic capacitor charging/discharging and experiment firing. This safety feature ensures the separation of high-voltage from laboratory personal. Both vacuum systems and all experiments are controlled through in-house designed LabVIEW virtual interfaces.