Discharge and plasma plume characterization of a 100 A-class LaB6 hollow cathode

S. Mazouffre, R. Joussot, B. Vincent, and S. Tsikata
J. Appl. Phys. 130, 173301 (2021)

This article reports on the characterization of a laboratory model 100 A-class hollow cathode with a sintered lanthanum hexaboride (LaB6) emitter for high-power Hall thrusters. The cathode has been fired up to 70 A with xenon as working gas. The cathode architecture, test setup, ignition procedure, and power consumption are described first. The second part of this contribution comments on the current–voltage characteristics and the discharge modes obtained for discharge currents in the 30–70 A range and flow rates in the 15–30 SCCM range. The cathode operates in a spot mode at high discharge currents and in a plume mode with large oscillations at low currents and low gas flow rate. Spectral analysis shows that most frequencies reside in the 10–200 kHz range with flat and sharp distributions in plume and spot modes, respectively. Finally, we present electron temperatures and densities measured in the cathode plasma plume by means of incoherent Thomson scattering. The two quantities decrease along the axis. The density is large (up to 10^19 m^-3) and increases with both the ion current and the gas flow rate. The electron temperature increases with the current and decreases with the gas flow rate. The temperature remains relatively low (<1.5 eV) in spite of large currents and applied powers.