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Space Based Applications for FEA Cathodes (FEAC)

  • B. E. Gilchrist (a1), U. Michigan (a1), Ann Arbor (a1), K. L. Jensen (a2), A. D. Gallimore (a3), U. Michigan (a3) and J. G. Severns (a4)...

Abstract

Cold cathodes such as field emitter arrays offer the potential to benefit or enable space-based applications of critical commercial, government, or military importance by providing an electron source that is low power, low cost, requires no consumables, potentially robust as well as highly reliable. Applications that would especially benefit from such cold cathodes include low power electric propulsion (EP) thruster technology, electrodyanamic tethers (ED) for propellantless propulsion in low-Earth orbit, and spacecraft negative potential charge control. In controlled environments, field emitter arrays have shown substantial capability, but have failed in harsher environments more typical of space applications. We argue that a combination of localized arc suppression coupled with a low work function, but nevertheless robust, coating such as zirconium carbide would provide the needed ruggedness to withstand energetic ions, oxygen fluxes, and adsorbates typical of a spacecraft environment. We have found that arc-protected and coated FEACs that can operate in a 1-10 microTorr pressure environment with current densities of less than 0.1 Amps/cm^2 and gate voltages between 50-100 Volts, would enable reliable, lowcost devices capable of operating in the required space environment.

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Space Based Applications for FEA Cathodes (FEAC)

  • B. E. Gilchrist (a1), U. Michigan (a1), Ann Arbor (a1), K. L. Jensen (a2), A. D. Gallimore (a3), U. Michigan (a3) and J. G. Severns (a4)...

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