Characterization of hollow cathode plasma turbulence using coherent Thomson scattering

S. Tsikata, K. Hara and S. Mazouffre
J. Appl. Phys. 131 (2022) (accepted)

Turbulence in hollow cathodes used for space propulsion is believed to play an important role in anomalous electron transport and ion heating. In this work, the implementation of coherent Thomson scattering to identify and characterize MHz-frequency ion acoustic turbulence and kHz-frequency oscillations in the plume of a hollow cathode is achieved. In the presence of a background magnetic field of a Hall thruster, a number of unstable modes are observed. A directive ion acoustic mode propagating predominantly within a restricted angle around the magnetic field is found, exhibiting an energy scaling with wavenumber k of the form k^-5.2 +/- 0.58, which differs from the classic Kadomtsev k^-3 scaling for unmagnetized conditions. Bi-directional ion acoustic mode fluctuations propagating over a range of angles with respect to the magnetic field have been measured, possibly signifying the existence of a large-amplitude plasma wave, similar to the Buneman instability. Lastly, electron density fluctuations in the kHz-frequency range, a possible consequence of drift-driven instabilities in the plane perpendicular to the magnetic field, have also been identified. These results not only are an indication of the diversity of wave types which exist in hollow cathode plumes but also point to the key role played by the presence of, and the configuration of, the magnetic field in their appearance.