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Investigations on plasmas produced in electromagnetic shock tubes. Cormack, George Douglas


Electromagnetic shock tubes were used to generate plasmas having a number density of the order of 10¹⁷ per cm³ and an energy per particle of 1-3 ev. In the shock tubes employed, the driving current was passed via electrodes through a discharge at one end of the tube. The discharge gases that were driven down the shock tube plus the ambient gas that was picked up and heated constituted the plasma that was studied. Many workers have assumed that shock equations can describe the discontinuity at the front of the plasma. An investigation into the effects of changes in the geometry of the driver mechanism has disclosed that the luminosity structure that can be attributed to the discharge gases stays very close to the luminosity front. The amount of ambient gas that is entrained in front of the discharge gases is thus small. Therefore, some doubt exists about the applicability of the shock equations both in the present shock tube and in the electromagnetic shock tubes of other workers. The shape of the luminosity front of the plasma was found to be affected by the properties of the driving discharge, even at a time long after the driving current had ceased to flow. Instabilities of the discharge and contamination by electrode material were found to drastically affect the homogeneity of the plasma. The homogeneity and reproducibility of the plasma produced by a small-cathode driver were found to be fairly good. However, there was a large amount of contamination in the plasma. The plasma was used to investigate the electro-dynamic response of an inductive magnetohydrodynamic power generator. Expressions for the output power were derived and compared with the experimental results. The electrodynamical response of a novel electrode-type Bɵ magnetohydrodynamic power generator was calculated. In an experiment performed with this generator a magnetohydrodynamic Interaction was observed indicating that the plasma was transporting an azimuthal magnetic field. No output power was obtained. The probable cause for this was that the applied magnetic field was insufficient to break down the sheath on the electrodes. A low pressure spark gap switch suitable for use as a main switch and as a "crowbar" switch on a capacitor bank was developed. The switch was operated over a voltage range of 0.5 to 25 kV, at energies up to 4 kJ and currents up to 500 kA. Under normal operating conditions the triggering time was 40 nsec and the jitter approximately 10 nsec. The inductance of the main switch was 4 nH and the inductance of the crowbar switch was about 1 nH. Other contributions are presented on a wide-voltage-range open-air spark gap switch, high voltage trigger circuits and on the dynamics of the plasma in an electromagnetic shock tube. The latter consists of an elementary treatment of the electromagnetic acceleration processes and a proposal of a model for the decelerating plasma.

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