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Acta Astronautica 141 (2017) 816

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Mach-Effect thruster model

M. Tajmar 1
Technische Universit
at Dresden, 01307 Dresden, Germany


The Mach-Effect thruster is a propellantless propulsion concept that has been in development by J.F. Woodward for more than two decades. It consists of a piezo stack
that produces mass uctuations, which in turn can lead to net time-averaged thrusts. So far, thrust predictions had to use an efciency factor to explain some two
orders of magnitude discrepancy between model and observations. Here, a detailed 1D analytical model is presented that takes piezo material parameters and ge-
ometry dimensions into account leading to correct thrust predictions in line with experimental measurements. Scaling laws can now be derived to improve thrust range
and efciency. An important difference in this study is that only the mechanical power developed by the piezo stack is considered to be responsible for the mass
uctuations, whereas prior works focused on the electrical energy into the system. This may explain why some previous designs did not work as expected. The good
match between this new mathematical formulation and experiments should boost condence in the Mach effect thruster concept to stimulate further developments.

1. Introduction 2016 Buldrini independently replicated this effect [10]. Recently, it has
been shown explicitly that such a scheme does not violate conservation of
Propellantless propulsion is a concept, which is traditionally associ- momentum [11].
ated with tethers, solar sails or photon rockets. With an on-board power Of course, energy must still be spent to vary the mass and accelerate it.
source, such as a nuclear reactor, the photon rocket, which converts The power-to-thrust ratio is an important gure of merit to compare it
energy into radiation and uses radiation pressure to produce thrust, is the against photon (P/F 3105 W/mN) and other electric thrusters (P/
only propellantless propulsion that is independent of external sources. F 2060 W/mN). At present, typical experimental values for the Mach-
This makes it in principle interesting for interstellar travel. However, the Effect thruster [1] are an order of magnitude better than the photon
thrust F P/c2 is very small and requires Megawatts to produce milli- rocket (P/F 3104 W/mN). Woodward is using Piezo crystals both as
Newtons of thrust. capacitors and actuators to oscillate their energy and to push/pull them.
Since the 1990s, James F. Woodward has been developing an alter- Both processes must appear at a proper phase between them to pro-
native approach called Mach-Effect thruster [15]. It is based on the well- duce thrust.
motivated idea by Sciama [6] that inertia is due to the interaction of mass Unlike a rocket, the thrust for a Mach-Effect thruster is not due to the
with the gravitational background from the whole universe. This is in fact expulsion of a reaction force. Instead, the anticipated magnitude of mass
one of the interpretations of Mach's principle [7] (mass out there in- uctuation and the thrust that can result from those uctuations is simply
uences inertia here), which was a guideline for Einstein to develop his calculated using Newton's 2nd law F ma. The important question of
theory of general relativity. Although Einstein's theory is not fully course is: How large is the mass uctuation?, to calculate the correct
Machian, there are well-known and experimentally veried thrust and to benchmark this propulsion scheme against photon rockets.
Mach-type-effects such as frame-dragging [8,9], which can be described So far, the predictions and the observed thrust values differ by some
by the same weak-eld approximation of general relativity as used by orders of magnitudes. It was suggested that this may be due to material
Sciama [6]. Woodward used Sciama's result to show that time-changing efciencies that were not properly considered [1]. The thrust equation
energy content of a body is causing Machian mass uctuations that are used up to now even predicts a dependence on the frequency to the 6th
much larger than one would expect from E mc2. Woodward then power, which is not observed (power electronics limitations in tests so
devised a method to use these mass uctuations for a novel propulsion far). The only trend that was experimentally veried by Woodward and
scheme: Push the mass when it is heavy and pull it back when it is lighter. coworkers is that the (on/off transient) effect seems to scale with the
This cycle can create a time-averaged net linear impulse in one direction fourth power of the applied voltage to the piezo stack (although only 4
that satises the denition of a propellantless thruster. Apart from data points have been taken up to now) [12]. We will use the same set of
Woodward's own thrust measurements (e.g. see Ref. [1] for a review), in data to compare against our model.

E-mail address:

Professor and Chair for Space Systems, Director of Institute of Aerospace Engineering.
Received 13 June 2017; Received in revised form 14 August 2017; Accepted 18 September 2017
Available online 21 September 2017
0094-5765/ 2017 IAA. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
M. Tajmar Acta Astronautica 141 (2017) 816

Nomenclature g Gravitational eld

a Acceleration I Current
C Capacity k, kp Electromechanical Coupling Coefcient
c Speed of Light (3  108 m/s) l Length
d Diameter M33 Electrostrictive Constant
d33 Piezoelectric Constant m Mass
Density NPZT,Screw Number of PZT Discs and Screws
E Energy Angular Frequency
Energy Density P Power
0 Electric Constant (8.854  1012 F/m) Phase
r33 Relative Permittivity Qm Mechanical Quality Factor
F Force t Time
f Frequency tan Dissipation Factor @ 1 kHz
f0 Resonance Frequency V Voltage
g Gravitational Potential v Velocity
G Newton's Gravitational Constant (6.67  1011 m3/kg-s2) Y Youngs Modulus

After signicant improvements of the experimental techniques, the Clamping is necessary to generate a force. If no clamping is applied,
observed thrusts are in the sub-N - N range, which requires micro piezos generate maximum movement but no force. On the other hand, if
thrust balances with high resolution. Proper analysis and shielding is the stiffness of the clamping is equal to the stiffness of the piezo stack, no
necessary to rule out possible artifacts such as thermal effects, outgassing movement will occur but maximum force will be generated. This situa-
or magnetic interactions as demonstrated by Woodward and coworkers tion applies to both the acoustic applications of PZTs as well as the
[1,13]. Apart from the need for further testing to consolidate the reality analytical model developed here. Most actuators choose a clamp stiffness
of the effect, the large discrepancy between theory and experimental that is well below the piezo stiffness, as it is the case for the present Mach-
results persists after some 27 years of development and thus raises doubts Effect thruster. The whole assembly is connected with an aluminum
if the observed effects are due to mass uctuations. Even more, the lack of bracket on the opposite side of the larger brass cap to the test structure
a correct model prohibits the development of scaling laws to amplify the for measurement purposes, that's a thrust balance. A rubber pad (e.g.
effect beyond any doubt. Sorbothane) is placed in between this connection to damp out vibration
The most sophisticated model was recently developed by Rodal [14], artifacts and to mechanically de-couple high frequency vibrations in the
who describes the movement of the piezo stack by a set of differential piezo-stack assembly from the balance arm.
equations with over 200 analytical terms taking material properties into
account. His model gives exact predictions; however, he must assume an
2.2. Basic concept of getting thrust from a variable mass
empirical efciency factor of 0.4% to match experimental data. More-
over, no analytical scaling laws are given in his paper.
Let's assume that the mass of a body m0 can change with a certain
Here, a fully analytical model of the Mach-Effect thruster is presented
angular frequency . If we push and pull on this mass with the same
whose predictions match experimental data and allows the design of
frequency, it is easy to see that a net force is generated if both mass
optimized thrusters based on mass uctuations by taking both design and
oscillation and actuator oscillation are in phase or at a phase of 180
material properties into account. The model gives an important insight
(which then results in a change of the direction of force). We simply
into how mass uctuations appear and why the present design works but
assume sinusoidal oscillations and use Newton's 2nd law like
other designs failed.
mt m0 sint
2. Mach-Effect thruster design
xt x0 sint
2.1. Fundamentals d 2 xt
at x0 2 sint a0 sint
dt 2
The current embodiment of the Mach-Effect thruster consists of a stack
of piezo discs that is similar in design to typical actuators using ferroelectric where m0 is the stationary mass, x0 the amplitude of the actuator oscil-
(PZT Lead Zirconate Titanate) materials, which are sold by many sup- lation and is the phase between mass and actuator oscillation. We get a
pliers e.g. for ultrasonic applications. In general, if an electric eld is non-zero force for a 0 phase and a zero force for a 90 phase by making a
applied across such PZT discs, they expand and contract depending on the time-average over one cycle as
eld strength and direction of the eld. The piezo/PZT stack is made of
several discs that are mechanically connected in series but electrically F0 Phase mtat m0 sinta0 sint m0 a0 sin2 t
connected in parallel (i.e. all discs have the same electric potential applied 2 m0 a 0
between their electrodes). This is achieved by always switching the polarity F 0 Phase F0 Phase dt 
2 0 2
from disc to disc such that every electrode faces another electrode with the  
same polarity to avoid electric short circuits. Woodward uses brass elec- F90 Phase mtat m0 sinta0 sin t m0 a0 sintcost
trodes which are glued with epoxy between each disc. The whole assembly
is clamped with stainless steel screws between two end caps, a larger one 2
F 90 Phase F90 Phase dt 0
made from brass with threaded holes and a smaller one made from 2 0
aluminum. The screws are tightened to ensure that the piezo stack is well (2)
compressed between the stiff end caps. A schematic sketch as well as an The phase is therefore very important. This basic concept shows that a
actual thruster is illustrated in Figs. 1 and 2. net time-averaged thrust is possible without using propellants.

M. Tajmar Acta Astronautica 141 (2017) 816

Fig. 1. Schematic sketch of a Mach-Effect thruster.

where we used the simple gravitational scalar potential of the point mass
m0, g G.m0/r, to arrive at the Woodward mass formula [1]. Wood-
ward then applied Sciama's inertia model [6], where the effect of the
surrounding mass of the universe follows g/c2 1. Contrary to
Woodward, a negative sign is used as in Sciama's paper because a grav-
itational potential is always negative. The energy density is taken to be
0c2 to get

g 2 0 1 2
0  (5)
4Gc2 0 t 2 4Gc2 0 t 2
It's important to realize that this term leads to much larger mass
changes than expected from the classical E mc2. The amplication
factor may be expressed as

0 1
1  (6)
c2 t
4G0 t
Fig. 2. Typical Mach-Effect thruster model (provided by J.F. Woodward).
For frequencies as used by Woodward in the kHz range and typical
metal or piezo mass densities, the mass uctuation can be some 11 orders
2.3. A simple Mach-Effect mass uctuation model
of magnitude higher compared to classical expectations. However, in
contrast to the classical energy-mass balance, no steady mass changes but
The core of the Mach-Effect thruster are the mass uctuations. Several
only uctuations are possible with this amplication.
different derivations have been proposed by Woodward [1,5], and most
In contrast to prior Mach thruster analysis, the assertion in this
recently by Fearn et al. [12,15]. Here we will summarize a simple
analysis is that only the mechanical (inertial) energy contributions to the
approach by Tajmar [16] which gives similar equations as obtained by
Mach uctuations, whereas the prior interpretations focused on the
Woodward [1] using some main assumptions which are necessary for our
electrical energy in the capacitors (or coils). This makes sense as Sciama's
thruster model.
model describes inertial and hence only inertial (mechanical) energy.
One frequently derives analytical solutions from general relativity by
In some previous experiments, mechanical oscillation was replaced by
applying the so-called weak-eld approximation. The main assumptions
ion/lattice movements that were thought to be much more efcient
here are a at background (a good assumption for our neighborhood) and
because they can oscillate at much higher frequencies. However,
stationary solutions which leads to Newton's gravitational force law. To
although early papers reported thrusts up to the mN range, no net thrusts
consider mass uctuations, the last assumption must be dropped,
were seen when proper electrical shielding and setups were used in
allowing the following time-varying solution,
subsequent measurements [1,17]. As a result, it was thought the bulk
1 2 g 1 2 g acceleration is necessary for the effect to occur [1], however as we will
g g 4G0  4G 0 (3) see, it is not only bulk acceleration but pure mechanical energy that is
c2 t2 4Gc2 t 2
responsible for the correct thrust values observed.
where g is the gravitational eld, g the gravitational potential and 0 the By integrating over the volume, the mass uctuation term, as used by
stationary mass density. Note the additional term next to the density that Woodward, is found but with a negative sign.
is time varying. One may express the delta density as 1 P
m0  (7)
2 2 2 4Gc2 0 t
1 g g m0 g 0
0 (4)
4Gc2 t 2 4Gc2 m0 t2 4Gc2 0 t 2 where dP/dt is now the time-derivate of the mechanical power produced

M. Tajmar Acta Astronautica 141 (2017) 816

by the piezo stack. The negative sign is important to get the observed lPZT tClamp
thrust direction. The new analysis offered here uses this as a start- xt
ing point. d
vt xt
2.4. Analytical piezo model using clamping
V0 costClamp d33 lPZT 2M33 V0 sint

We are going to develop a one-dimensional model along the thrust/ 2lPZT
electric eld axis. First, we will concentrate on one single PZT element. If d2
we apply an AC voltage to the piezo with a frequency f 2, we will get at xt
dt 2
the following varying voltage, current and power given by  
V0 2 Clamp sintd33 lPZT 2M33 V0 sint2V0 cos2 tM33

Vt V0 sint; It I0 cost; Pt V0 I0 sintcost 2lPZT
(8) (11)

where we assumed a pure capacitive load and therefore a 90 phase shift where the factor of is necessary such that x characterizes the ampli-
between voltage and current, which is very reasonable using a typical tude of the oscillation. As shown in Fig. 1, the thruster is mounted on the
conguration. As shown before, mass uctuations depend on the time side of the rubber pad/brass disc. Therefore, when the piezos expand, the
derivative of the power fed into the piezo stack. Using trigonometry, center of mass will shift to the right towards the small end cap side. We
we get therefore dene the positive x direction in the direction from the xed
towards the free side.
Pt The clamping efciency acting on a single PZT can be calculated [20]
V0 I0 cos2t (9)
t from the stiffness of the PZT itself and the stiffness of the clamp as
This shows that mass uctuations will then have double the frequency kPZT
and a phase shift of 90 compared to the applied voltage signal. We Clamp (12)
kPZT kClamp
therefore need a similar signal that accelerates the stack to get a non-zero
force such that mass uctuation and actuator are perfectly in phase with Looking at Fig. 1, we can calculate the clamping stiffness from all
respect to each other as shown above. contributing elements dening the clamp (other PZTs, screw and
Fortunately, the piezo material itself can act both as capacitor due to aluminum end cap) by properly taking into account elements that add up
the high relative dielectric permittivity, and as an actuator. Even more, as in parallel (screws) or series (everything else) like springs as
an actuator we see the superposition of two effects that together produce
an acceleration that partly has the correct waveform (double the driving kClamp  
frequency with a 90 phase shift): 1 1 1 1 1 1
NScrew kScrew kAlu kBrass kElectrode kEpoxy kPZT
1. Piezo-Effect: This well-known effect produces a change of dimensions 2 2
YAlu dCap 2
YBrass dCap
YScrew dScrew
of the PZT material that is proportional to the applied electric eld kScrew ; kAlu ; kBrass
4lPZT NPZT lAlu 4lAlu 2lBrass
strength. Different axes have different material constants.
2 2
2. Electrostriction: This is a general property of all dielectrics caused by YElectrode;Epoxy;PZT dPZT Y33 dPZT
kElectrode;Epoxy;PZT ; kPZT
a slight displacement of ions in the crystal lattice upon exposure of an 4lElectrode;Epoxy;PZT 4lPZT
electric eld. It scales with the square of the applied electric eld (13)
strength and is much weaker. Also, different axes feature different
constants. Electrostriction is usually much weaker compared to the where Y is Youngs modulus and other elements are determined by the
piezo effect in typical PZTs. geometry (Y33 is again for the PZT in the longitudinal direction). The
brass mass is assumed to contribute with half of its length to the overall
We can now express the time-varying change in length of an stiffness due to the clamping screw as shown in Fig. 1.
unclamped PZT using the applied electric eld as
! 2.5. Calculation of thruster force
Vt Vt2
lPZT t lPZT d33 M33 2 (10)
lPZT lPZT Now we are ready to calculate the force of the Mach-Effect thruster.
Woodward and coworkers [1,12], started off with Equ. (7) and a simple
where lPZT is the stationary length, and d33 and M33 are the piezo and mechanical approach. Using P Fv and Newton's second law, they
electrostrictive constants respectively along the electric eld direction approximated the mass uctuation (with a positive sign) as
for a disc shaped piezo crystal. Both effects always appear simulta-
neously. It should be noted that all piezo constants are dependent on the 1
m0  m0 a 2 (14)
electric eld strength, temperature etc. [18]. This model assumes that the 4Gc2 0
piezo constants are static a reasonable rst order assumption. In
addition, the pre-stress on the PZT, due to clamping, inuences piezo but without taking any spring/stiffness into account. In general, piezo
characteristics. However, a typical torque on the screws of 4 in-lbf results actuators are usually simulated by using a quasi-static model (low fre-
in a pre-stress of 9 MPa on the PZT disc, which is still small enough to quency regime, typically well below any resonance) and a dynamic
consider static values [19]. Higher pre-stress increases the d33 piezo model (at resonance frequencies). It's possible to use quasi-static models
constant up to a critical peak, which may be used to increase piezo also at higher frequencies, however, they do not take the inertia of
movement in the future. attached masses like the large brass mass into account. Moreover, the
The actual movement of the piezo however depends on the clamping Young modulus is increasing at higher frequencies which causes the
stiffness as written above and is expressed along with the velocity and quasi-static model to overpredict the actual force [21]. Our calculations
acceleration as will show that these two different models have a different frequency
dependence (4 and 6), however for the geometry and electrical values
used, both have similar amplitudes. The models will deviate for higher

M. Tajmar Acta Astronautica 141 (2017) 816

frequencies or larger attached masses. Typical thrust signatures from Table 1

recent tests are shown in Fig. 3, where a switch on/off transients as well Basic dimensions and materials parameter of Mach-Effect thruster (some parameters
taken from Ref. [14]).
as a steady thrust component is seen. The origin of the transient thrust is
not fully claried up to now (a rst idea is discussed in Refs. [22,23]). Parameter Value

2.5.1. Quasi-static model Number of PZTs in Stack (NPZT) 8
For the quasi-static case, we will pursue with two approaches that Length of PZT Disc 2 mm
Diameter of PZT 19 mm
accurately tackle the problem by either using the real mechanical force Density of PZT (PZT) 7900 kg/m3
generated by our piezo actuator stack or the energy content stored inside Youngs Modulus (Y33) 73 GPa
the piezo-capacitor. Both will eventually lead to a similar result. Screws (Stainless Steel)
Number of Screws (NScrew) 6
Diameter of Screw (dScrew) 2.845 mm Quasi-static thruster model using piezo force. The mechanical Density of Screw (Screw) 7850 kg/m3
force [20] and power generated by a piezo actuator is given by Young Modulus (YScrew) 190 GPa
 End Cap (Aluminum)
FPZT t kPZT lPZT t 1  Clamp Diameter of Cap (dCap) 28.9 mm
PPZT t FPZT tvt Length of End Cap (lAlu) 4.3 mm
Density of End Cap (Alu) 2700 kg/m3
The thrust generated can now be calculated by inserting the mass Young Modulus (YAlu) 69 GPa
uctuation term and the mechanical power generated by all PZTs in the End Cap (Brass)
Length of End Cap (lBrass) 16 mm
stack given by NPZT as Density of End Cap (Brass) 8700 kg/m3
Young Modulus (YBrass) 100 GPa
NPZT PPZT t Electrode Thickness (Brass, lElectrode) 50 m
FThrust;PZT t mPZT at  at (16)
4Gc2 PZT t Epoxy
Thickness (lExpoy) 5 m
We can average this force over one complete cycle to get a time- Young Modulus (YEpoxy) 20 GPa
average given by

F Thrust;PZT FThrust;PZT tdt thrust of FThrust,PZT 3.4 N. Note that the thrust value is negative and
2 0
  therefore points from the PZTs towards the brass mass along the
NPZT V04 4 kPZT M33 2Clamp Clamp  1 11d33
2 2
lPZT 8V02 M33
negative x-direction (see Fig. 1).
128Gc2 PZT l3PZT Quasi-Static thruster model using energy stored in capacitor. An-
11NPZT V04 4 kPZT M33 d33
2 2
Clamp Clamp  1
 other very intuitive approach is to start from the energy that is stored in
128Gc2 PZT lPZT
the piezo-capacitor due to the high relative permittivity of the PZT ma-
Here, we dropped the second term as it is several orders of magni- terial. The electric power here is simply
tude smaller and only gets comparable to the rst term at a eld
strength of 25106 V/m, which is well above our values. We can see the Pe t VtIt V0 sintI0 cost (18)
experimentally observed V4 dependence. All relevant material and The corresponding average force is calculated accordingly as
thruster data are summarized in Tables 1 and 2 which may be used to
calculate thrust. The recent thrusters use SM111 piezo discs from Stei- NPZT PEnergy t
FThrust;Energy t mEnergy at  a
ner&Martins, which is a hard-PZT material with low dielectric losses 4Gc2 PZT t
and a high Curie temperature of 320  C. In addition to the usual PZTs in
the stack, Woodward usually integrates thin piezo discs used as accel- F Thrust;Energy FThrust;Energy t dt (19)
erometer, which we did not model here (but that can be easily imple- 2 0
mented following our approach, it modies the results presented here NPZT V03 I0 3 M33 Clamp

by less than one percent). Using typical values such as a voltage of 8Gc2 PZT lPZT
V0 200 V and a frequency of f 36.3 kHz, we get a net-time average

Fig. 3. Typical thrust Signature of a similar Mach-Effect thruster at 36.3 kHz showing On/Off Transients and a Constant Thrust [10].

M. Tajmar Acta Astronautica 141 (2017) 816

Table 2 both models to published measurements which shows excellent agree-

SM-111 piezo material parameters ([14,28]). ment (using the correct geometry, material parameters, driving fre-
Parameter Value quencies and voltages). This demonstrates once again that it is a pure
Piezoelectric Constant (d33) 320  1012 m/V inertial effect only mechanical work causes transient mass uctuations
Electrostrictive Constant (M33) 1.35  1017 m2/V2 that can be used to produce a net time-average force. The experimental
Electromechanical Coupling Coefcient (kp) 0.58 data in Fig. 4 is based on measurements by Woodward who used only
Dissipation Factor @ 1 kHz (tan ) 0.004 switch-on/off transient thrusts which is an overprediction of the actual
Relative Electric Permittivity (r33) 1400
expected steady-state thrust. Nevertheless, the comparison conrms the
right order of magnitude and correct scaling with voltage.
Here, the force scales linearly with the current and therefore the We see that the delta mass signal has double the frequency with a 90
electric power supplied to the thruster. At rst sight, this does not look phase shift as expected. The amplitude is close to 0.4 mg, which is a huge
like our approach using the PZT force in Equ. (17). Recall, however, that value that could be measured with standard analytical balances
key assumption in this analysis is that the mechanical, not electrical although not at this high frequency. This shows that transient mass
power pertains to the Mach effect. For our capacitive load, the current uctuations are not small such as the usual effects in general relativity
depends on the capacity of our electric circuit Ce. In addition, we need to like frame-dragging that needs dedicated space missions to detect them.
multiply that with a correction factor that separates the mechanical from The acceleration signal is dominated by the piezoelectric effect which has
the electric part. We can summarize that by the following equations valid the same frequency and a 180 phase shift with respect to the applied
for a single PZT element as signal. Therefore, Fig. 4 only shows the much smaller electrostrictive
signal which is responsible for most of the net time-average thrust value
dPZT because it has the right double-frequency and 90 phase shift (in the
Ce 0 r33
4lPZT piezo force model, also the piezoelectric acceleration contributes slightly
 (20) to thrust, in the energy model only the electrostrictive component con-
C Ce Clamp 1  Clamp kp2
tributes). We see that the thrust oscillates up to 5.5 N which is sig-
I0 V0 C nicant and similar in magnitude to existing micropropulsion thruster
such as FEEP or PPTs.
Wolff et al. [24] studied the mechanical-electric energy split for
Of course, there remain a lot of improvement areas. For example, the
multilayer PZT actuators and also identied the (1-Clamp) correction
need for mass uctuations and acceleration may be split and driven by
factor for the capacity. From our PZT model before, we know that this
two different frequency generators to create a much better result (in the
was to correct the force generated by the actuator. Another Clamp is
past, Woodward was using a mix of the standard frequency together with
necessary to correct for the position of the stack. The last factor kp is the
a double frequency and a proper phase shift some optimization could be
so-called electromechanical coupling factor in the radial direction of thin
expected in that case).
piezo discs. Such discs have different resonance frequencies as we will
We can also calculate the total electric power going to the thruster
see later. The rst resonance, followed by several harmonics, is causing
and the power loss which is important for the thruster as this can raise the
oscillations in the radial direction only, therefore the kp coupling factor
temperature and cause signicant degradation of the material's perfor-
must be used [25]. The next resonance causes longitudinal oscillations
mance. Neglecting Ohmic losses or inductive/capacitive loads from the
along the thickness of the disc, which are characterized by the kt factor
power supply, we get the effective electric power for the whole PZT
which is much smaller. In this case, even a reduced (clamped) electric
stack as
constant must be used that can further reduce the thrust effect. These
factors cause a degradation of the effect at higher frequencies that can
V02 Ce
also explain why a 2-3 dependence of the effect is observed so far Peff NPZT
instead of higher powers [12]. For different geometries, instead of thin   (22)
discs (larger rods, rectangular shapes, etc.), different electromechanical Ploss NPZT V02 Ce tan
coupling factors need to be applied. The radial expansion works well for Qm
the mass uctuation part because as the resulting mass change is in any
case isotropic, however the push-pull must occur in the longitudinal di- where tan is the dissipation factor (that is low for hard PZT material)
rection which would need the kt factor in that case. We therefore do not and Qm is the mechanical quality factor of the stack. Although Qm can be
expect a perfect match when comparing to the PZT model. high for individual PZT discs, it is quite low for a stack with epoxy and
We can now re-write Equ. (19) as electrode material in between. The values are determined by spectrum
analysis and are typically around 60. Again, using our example, we get an

NPZT V04 4 M33 0 r33 dPZT
kp2 2Clamp Clamp  1 effective power of 63 W and a power loss of 2.6 W and a total capacity
F Thrust;Energy (21) of 14 nF.
32Gc2 PZT l2PZT
which has again the same voltage and angular frequency dependence as 2.5.2. Dynamic model
our PZT force model. In fact, both equations are very similar as the For high frequency applications, the mass of the vibrating system due
electromechanical coupling factor depends on the piezo constants, to its inertia can generate a large oscillating force. This dynamic force
Youngs modulus and electric permittivity. Using again the same condi- [20] is given by
tions, the energy thrust model predicts a net-time averaged force of
2.8 N, which is close to the PZT model force. The small difference Fdyn t meff at (23)
between both models is due to the different approach. For example, due
to the structure of the equations in the PZT models, a small part of the where the effective mass consists of spring-type masses (PZTs) that
piezoelectric acceleration contributes to a net-averaged thrust too expand and contract as well as external xed masses as expressed by
whereas it does not for the energy model. Additionally, the energy model mspring
here predicts large radial oscillations for our transient mass uctuations meff mexternal (24)
due to the disc geometry whereas the PZT model has no geometry
correction factor. Both approaches have their strengths and future test In our geometry, the spring-type PZT masses will accelerate to the
into higher frequencies or PZT geometry stacks will tell what is better. right (positive x-direction), whereas the brass mass will be pushed into
Fig. 4 shows the output of the models for this case and Fig. 5 compares the opposite direction to the left (negative x-direction) due to Newton's

M. Tajmar Acta Astronautica 141 (2017) 816

Fig. 4. Quasi-static Mach-Effect thruster energy-model Outputs for V0 200 V and f 36.3 kHz (Note: Electrostrictive acceleration is shown here because only electrostrictive acceleration
has the right phase to produce a net-time averaged thrust. The piezoelectric acceleration is much larger and would therefore mask electrostriction in the illustration. This gure intends to
show that the mass uctuation is pushed and pulled by electrostriction with the right frequency and phase. The model thrust equations, however, do not separate between the two effects.).

3rd law. At resonance, we assume that the acceleration of the brass mass acceleration amplitudes of brass mass and PZTs is justied. However,
has the same amplitude as the one from the PZTs. In reality, this depends future numerical simulations and measurements will be necessary for
on the stiffness of the mounting of the brass mass to the holding structure better modeling. The brass mass therefore enters our equation with a
(screws and rubber) as well as on the stiffness of the support structure. As negative sign. We will neglect the aluminum cap, mounting structure and
we assume that the rubber pad mounting is effectively isolating the brass screws as the have nearly equal positive (PZT side) and negative (brass
mass vibration from the mounting structure, our assumption of similar side) contributions that cancel out.

M. Tajmar Acta Astronautica 141 (2017) 816

Fig. 6. Comparison of combined Quasi-static and dynamic thruster model to measure-

Fig. 5. Comparison of Quasi-static thruster model to measurements [12,23], (Note: The
ments [10].
measured thrust values were taken by measuring the difference between the switch on-off
transient thrust values therefore the measured thrust values where divided by a factor of
two to get the single thrust value from the baseline to the peak observed.). 2.6. Modeling of resonances

We can now express the dynamical force and its associated power by So far, we have not taken resonances into account. This is for sure a
  very important aspect, which is however beyond the scope of our
NPZT mPZT analytical model. We expect damping of our force outside resonance
FDyn t  mBrass at
3 (25) frequencies that scale with the usual 2/(20-2) dependence. We can
PDyn t Fdyn tvt analytically estimate the resonance frequencies of our piezo actuator
using the following approach. By calculating the masses of the individual
The corresponding average force is calculated as PZT discs, end caps and the screws, we can nd the resonance frequencies
using a multi mass-spring model [27] as
NPZT mPZT mBrass
avg r
NPZT mPZT mBrass 1
PZT Brass NPZT mPZT mBrass mAlu NScrew mScrew 2NPZT 1
1 PDyn t i 1:::NPZT
FThrust;Dyn t mDyn at  a
4Gc2 avg t (26) (27)
2 Using again our model example, we get seven resonance frequencies
F Thrust;Dyn 0 FThrust;Dyn tdt
2 as f0 14.7 kHz, 29 kHz, 42.4 kHz, 54.5 kHz, 65 kHz,73.5 kHz, 79.7 kHz
V04 6 M33 d33
2 3
Clamp NPZT mPZT 3mBrass  and 83.6 kHz which is again in good agreement with experimental results
 as shown from a recent impedance spectrum recorded with an SR 780
128Gc2 avg lPZT
dynamic signal analyzer for a similar device (supplied by H. Fearn). A
Here we introduced the average density avg for the variable dynamic comparison of a spectrum analysis and our resonance frequencies are
mass mDyn, since it contains contributions from all vibrating parts. This shown in Fig. 7. Both resonance and thruster models should be used
is however a small correction because the density of the piezos and brass together as new geometries will also affect resonance frequencies that
are very similar. The dynamic force has the same sign as the quasi-static must be considered when calculating thrusts.
models (negative x-direction) which is also experimentally observed
(personal communication with J. Woodward and N. Buldrini) and con- 3. Conclusions
tains the contribution from the piezo stack as well as the attached brass
mass. We also see that the mass of the piezo and especially the end caps We have developed a 1D analytical model that can accurately predict
have a signicant inuence on thrust as well. For example, a larger brass the thrust from Mach-Effect thrusters taking design and materials pa-
mass will increase the thrust, however, long/heavier brass caps will also rameters into account. It compares well to experimental data and allows
reduce the clamping efciency Clamp. Therefore, an optimum brass mass for further optimization to obtain higher thrusts and efciencies. Apart
exists for each conguration which was indeed found experimentally and from the well-known voltage and frequency scaling, it predicts higher
in Rodal's model as well [14]. In case brass masses are used as end caps on thrusts e.g. for larger disc diameters and higher stiffness. For example, if
both ends and the mounting structure is aligned with the middle of the the PZT discs are increased to a diameter of 25 mm, the 2nd resonance
piezo stack instead of its position at the end, then there would be equal frequency should rise to 51 kHz. Both should lead to an increase in thrust
dynamic forces on both sides resulting in zero thrust. This has been to 12 N at an amplitude of 200 V. Of course, there are several short-
demonstrated in a recent experiment [26]. comings and simplications that may be corrected in future iterations
The predicted dynamic thrusts seem more realistic as shown in the such as implementing resonances into the thrust model, use of electric
comparison of Fig. 5. Fig. 6 shows a comparison with the best steady eld dependent piezo material parameters, including temperature
thrust measurements so far, which is in good agreement. In general, the degradation effects and adding the inuence of the clamping torque
dynamic model should be preferred, especially if it is used to extrapolate from screws.
the thrust for larger and more massive congurations. However, the The model is exible enough to be modied for different geometries
quasi-static models show interesting insights how the energy is used to (e.g. piezo rings instead of discs with one single screw in the middle). One
perform mechanical work which is the basis of the generated effect. of the main conclusions of this analysis is that the thrust is only

M. Tajmar Acta Astronautica 141 (2017) 816

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