You are on page 1of 2

Primary Research Analysis

Using the Venturi Effect to Maximize the Exhaust Velocity of a Spacecraft Electric Propulsion

Engine While Minimizing the Loss of Thrust Incurred

The experiment conducted in this research project gathered data on the flow rate, exhaust

velocity, and thruster force in order to compare the performance of the two Venturi effect

nozzles. The results revealed that the Cycling Compression Nozzle had a slightly higher level of

performance when compared to the Direct Compression nozzle, especially the exhaust velocity.

However, research that was done on the differences in the properties of the test fluid of water

when compared to the plasma that would actually be used led to the discovery that when the flow

within the nozzle travels at a supersonic fluid, a decrease in the cross sectional area of the tube

that the fluid is in will result in it traveling slower instead of speeding up, and inversely, an

increase in the tube area will lead to the fluid speeding up.

The purpose of completing this experiment was to see which of the two nozzles was capable of

increasing the exhaust velocity of the fluid used by the thruster, while minimizing the loss of

force that occurs from the Venturi effect due to the result of the principle of the conservation of

mass. Allowing the thruster to operate with a higher exhaust velocity has several benefits,

including requiring a smaller amount of fuel, being able to reach a higher final velocity, and

operating more efficiently. Previously, the only thing that was capable of increasing the specific

impulse of the thruster was to increase the amount of electrical power that was supplied to the

thruster, but in order to do this, a larger, heavier power supply would be needed, and the launch

vehicles are not capable of lifting these larger power supplies into space. By applying the

Venturi effect to these nozzles, the exhaust velocity of the thruster can be increased, which is a

key part of allowing the thruster to operate with a higher specific impulse. The experiment that
was conducted revealed that the Cycling Compression nozzle performed slightly better than the

Direct Compression nozzle. The biggest difference in the level of performance from the nozzle

was the exhaust velocity, where the Cycling Compression nozzles exhaust velocity was on

average 2.47 feet per second faster than that of the Direct Compression nozzle. The flow rate of

the Cycling Compression nozzle was also better, as it was able to refill a one gallon bucket 1.69

seconds faster than the Direct Compression engine. There was only a small difference in the

average amount of force that was produced by the two nozzles, where the average force

produced by the Cycling Compression nozzle was only 0.05 Newtons greater than the force that

is produced by the Direct Compression nozzle. Despite the better performance that the Cycling

Compression nozzle provides, it also should be noted that due to the greater geometrical

complexity that this design has, a greater amount of material will be used, and as a result, the

cost of this nozzle will be higher than the Direct Compression nozzle, and due to the fact that in

most areas, the difference in performance between the Direct and Cycling Compression was

small, the Direct Compression nozzle should still be considered a possible second option. An

additional benefit to the Direct Compression engine is that the complex plasma sheaths that will

occur within the expansion nozzle will not have to modeled or calculated, nor will they subtract

from the thruster efficiency.

When considering future designs that may be developed from these thrusters, the Cycling

Compression design will in general provide better performance than the Direct Compression

nozzle, but will more complex, a higher cost, and it will be more difficult to implement the

ionization system into this engine geometry. Therefore, one can conclude that the selection of the

Cycling or Direct Compression Nozzle is dependent on whether the extra performance from the

nozzle was needed, or if a lower cost or simplicity was favored in the design.