Characterization of supersonic low pressure plasma jets

Low Pressure Plasma Spraying (LPPS) processes use a DC plasma jet expanding at low pressure for fast deposition of dense coatings in a controlled atmosphere. The LPPS technology is widely used industrially in particular in the aeronautics and medical industries among others. Unlike atmospheric pressure plasma jets, which have been extensively studied experimentally and theoretically, the interest in low pressure DC plasma jets only occurred recently. However, the process development has been mainly based on empirical methods and the basics of the physical mechanisms that govern them still remain to be investigated. Further improvement of the processes requires, in particular, the knowledge of physical properties of the plasma jet such as the temperature, flow velocity and plasma density. Low pressure plasma jets present unconventional properties such as low collisionality, large dimensions and supersonic flow. Therefore specific diagnostics have to be adapted to these conditions. In this study, argon plasma jets at pressures between 2 and 100 mbar are investigated. Imaging has been used to allow a qualitative description of the plasma jet topology for different pressures and torch parameters. Low pressure plasma jets are most of the time supersonic, compressible and in an aerodynamic non-equilibrium, which results in visible successive compression and expansion zones corresponding to a variation of the local pressure, temperature and density. Imaging, combined with pressure measurements inside the plasma torch, has evidenced three different types of flow regimes with respect to the chamber pressure. For chamber pressures below 45 mbar, the flow is under-expanded and is characterized by an exit pressure higher than the chamber pressure. For pressures above 45 mbar, the plasma jet is over-expanded, in this case the exit pressure is lower than the chamber pressure. When the exit pressure is equal to the chamber pressure, the plasma jet is in the so-called design pressure regime. A diagnostic tool, extensively applied on atmospheric plasma jets, the enthalpy probe system, has been modified in order to allow gas sampling from the plasma jet at low pressures. A shock wave appears in front of the probe when it is immersed in a supersonic plasma jet, making the interpretation of enthalpy measurements more difficult.The free-stream properties, like the Mach number, temperature and free-stream enthalpy have to be inferred from stagnation measurements. Two interpretations of enthalpy probe measurements are described in this study. The first method uses the energy conservation equation and LTE assumptions with calorically perfect gas and neglecting the aerodynamic non-equilibrium, whereas the second method, uses a complementary measurement of the static pressure just after the shock using a specially developed tool: the Post Shock Static Pressure Probe (PSSPP). This allows the use of the conservation equations to determine the free-stream properties of the plasma jet without the assumption of calorically perfect gas and aerodynamic non-equilibrium. Determination of the free-stream enthalpy, Mach number and temperature were possible on over-expanded jets for pressures higher than 40 mbar. At 100 mbar with torch parameters of 400 A and 40 SLPM argon flow, the temperature of the plasma jet reaches 10000 K and the velocity is about 3000 m/s on axis. Measurement of plasma jet properties such as the Mach number, electron density and temperature, were performed using double Langmuir probes and Mach probes. In particular, under-expanded jets are studied in detail by performing complete mappings of plasma jet properties at 10 and 2 mbar chamber pressure. These results show that the measured physical properties are consistent with the jet flow phenomenology such as the presence of periodic expansion and compression zones, the effect of the pressure and the location of the shocks. It is shown in particular that for highly under-expanded jets at 2 mbar, the Mach number reaches 2.8 in the first expansion zone followed by a strong drop to subsonic flow revealing the presence of a Mach reflection. The flow is accelerated further and a periodic structure of compression/expansion cells is observed until the local static pressure is in equilibrium with the surrounding pressure. Another diagnostic often used in plasma spraying is optical emission spectroscopy (OES) which is non-intrusive and gives information about the plasma excited species.However, the determination of the excitation temperature, obtained by the Boltzmann plot method, relies on the assumption of local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE), which is no longer satisfied at low working pressures. The result of the deviation from LTE is that the heavy particle, electron and excitation temperatures are different. In this study, Boltzmann plots have been used to evaluate the deviation from LTE as a function of the working pressure and the location in the plasma jet. It has been shown that the plasma jet is closer to LTE in the compression zones and close to the axis. Measurements of spectral line broadening due to the Stark effect allowed to determine the electron density for under-expanded jets and give results similar than with electrostatic probe measurements.On the other hand, excitation temperatures are systematically lower than the electron temperature for the same plasma conditions. For a 10 mbar plasma jet, the excitation temperature of argon is between 0.73 and 0.78 eV whereas the electron temperature is between 0.7 and 1.2 eV. This shows that at low pressure the plasma jets are not in LTE.These results contribute to the understanding of the supersonic plasma jet behavior at low pressure and can be used to quantify the deviation from local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE). The extensive mapping of the measured physical properties of the jet will also serve as input for modeling.

Hollenstein, Christoph
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis3120-7

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2005-03-16, last modified 2018-01-27

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