Capillary Extraction of the Ionic Liquid [Bmim][DCA] for Variable Flow Rate Operations


The ionic liquid [Bmim][DCA] is a propellant candidate in a standalone electrospray thruster or in a dual-mode propulsion system consisting of a chemical system and an electrospray system. Since limited published data exists for [Bmim][DCA], the electrospray characteristics are relatively unknown . Emission testing of the ionic liquid has been conducted to characterize the [Bmim][DCA] electrospray plume for both an external flow titanium needle and internal flow capillary. Mass spectrometric, retarding potential, and angle distribution measurements were collected for the positive polarity ions emitted from [Bmim] [DCA] wetted emitters with nominal extraction voltages between ~1 kV to ~2.5 kV. The titanium needle operate d at a sizably reduced liquid flow rate in comparison to the capillary. As such, only the major species of Bmim⁺ ([Bmim][DCA]) n with n=0, 1 were identifiable in the quadrupole measurement range of 0 - 1000 amu and were formed at or near the needle potential. A typical needle angle distribution was found in these measurements. For the capillary emitter, flow rates from 0.27 nL/s to 2.18 nL/s were used to investigate corresponding alterations in the electrospray beam. The aim of the investigation was to ascertain the ability to "tune" or "dial-in" an electrospray thruster to specific ion or droplet sizes and thus specific performance levels. Unlike the limited species observed from the needle emission, the capillary measurements indicated the presence of n=0,1,2,3,4 cation species with large mass droplet contributions. The lowest flow rates indicated the highest levels of ions in the measurement range of 0-1000 amu with a mix of large mass droplets. For increasing flow rate, species < 500 amu ceased to exist leaving only the n=2,3,4 species mixed with large mass droplets in the electrospray beam. All ion species exceeded the quadrupole mass range at the upper flow rates. Ions emitted from the capillary were formed at levels below the emitter potential. Ohmic losses in the ionic liquid are likely the cause for the less energetic ions. Angular distribution measurements indicated broadening of the beam current and mass distribution for increasing flow rates

Meeting Name

48th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conferences & Exhibit


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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© 2012 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2012