Research

Active Research

We specialize in many different aspects of research. Below is a more detailed list of exactly what kind of work we do, and why we do it.

Computational Modeling of Plasmas and Gases

We are currently developing efficient numerical approaches for solving the fully-coupled Navier-Stokes and Maxwell equations for fluid dynamic simulations of plasma flows. This vein of work has been aimed primarily at modeling unsteady, ionized flows in complex geometries with only modest computational effort. It has led to the development of a finite volume computer software called TEMPEST (Tennessee electromagnetics/fluids/plasmas equation solver toolchain, more on that here) to properly simulate these effects in dense plasmas.

Space Environment Simulators

Ground test facilities offer an approach to test and evaluation of materials and components used on satellites without the cost and risk associated with launching assets into orbit untested against the hazards, e.g. high energy atomic oxygen. The vacuum chambers used in this ground testing can simulate both the temperatures and pressures associated with orbit conditions, but the confined space inside the chamber volume leads to facility effects that cannot be eliminated. Through an active research program, we are conducting research on these facility effects and approaches to mitigate impact.

Cryocontamination of Space Environment Simulators

Another effect of ground test space environment simulators is contamination of the test environment with atoms and molecules not found in the orbit environment. While not under vacuum, the walls inside of vacuum chambers are exposed to atmospheric air. Water molecules, the primary space chamber contaminant, adsorb to the walls of the chamber and are slowly released during chamber pump-down. The desorbed molecules move within the chamber until they reach a surface at cryogenic temperatures often realized in space. Cryosurfaces are used to generate these cold temperatures inside ground test facilities. Test articles and optical diagnostic components are often placed in close proximity to the cryosurfaces. When the water molecules impact these cold surfaces , they freeze, leading to a buildup of water ice on optics and test articles, limiting test time and greatly increasing cost. Through an active research program, we are developing approaches to monitor and mitigate cryodeposition within the test environment.

Funding Agencies and Collaborators

Our work has been funded by and collaborative with the following agencies and corporations:

Published Findings

Our work has been published in a number of high-quality peer-reviewed journals:

  • Physics of Plasmas
  • AIAA Journal
  • Journal of Propulsion and Power
  • Journal of Computational Physics
  • IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science
  • Physics of Fluids
  • Journal of Thermal Science and Engineering Applications
  • Instruments and Experimental Techniques
  • Optical Engineering
  • ITEA Journal
  • Review of Scientific Instruments
  • Aerospace Science and Technology