A 10 nN resolution thrust-stand for micro-propulsion devices

We report on the development of a nano-Newton thrust-stand that can measure up to 100 μN thrust from different types of microthrusters with 10 nN resolution. The compact thrust-stand measures the impingement force of the particles emitted from a microthruster onto a suspended plate of size 45 mm × 45 mm and with a natural frequency over 50 Hz. Using a homodyne (lock-in) readout provides strong immunity to facility vibrations, which historically has been a major challenge for nano-Newton thrust-stands. A cold-gas thruster generating up to 50 μN thrust in air was first used to validate the thrust-stand. Better than 10 nN resolution and a minimum detectable thrust of 10 nN were achieved. Thrust from a miniature electrospray propulsion system generating up to 3 μN of thrust was measured with our thrust-stand in vacuum, and the thrust was compared with that computed from beam diagnostics, obtaining agreement within 50 nN to 150 nN. The 10 nN resolution obtained from this thrust-stand matches that from state-of-the-art nano-Newton thrust-stands, which measure thrust directly from the thruster by mounting it on a moving arm (but whose natural frequency is well below 1 Hz). The thrust-stand is the first of its kind to demonstrate less than 3 μN resolution by measuring the impingement force, making it capable of measuring thrust from different types of microthrusters, with the potential of easy upscaling for thrust measurement at much higher levels, simply by replacing the force sensor with other force sensors

Published in:
Review of Scientific Instruments, 86, 11, 115109
American Institute of Physics

 Record created 2015-11-17, last modified 2018-03-17

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