MAE Seminar – Predictive Modeling of Plasma Flows in Spacecraft Electric Propulsion Thrusters and Solar Wind:


12:45 pm-1:45 pm
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MAE-A Room 303
939 Sweetwater Drive
Gainesville, FL 32611


MAE Seminar – Predictive Modeling of Plasma Flows in Spacecraft Electric Propulsion Thrusters and Solar Wind: Bridging Microscopic Physics and Macroscopic Dynamics

Thursday, February 1, 2024, at 12:50pm, Location: MAE-A 303

Dr. Chen Cui, Assistant Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering, Mississippi State University

The recent expansion in space exploration, from VLEO to cislunar to deep space missions, presents unique challenges and demands advanced propulsion systems. Spacecraft electric propulsion (EP) stands out for its efficiency and capability in tasks like orbit-keeping and deep space missions, yet understanding of the physical mechanisms, such as plasma plume dynamics in EP thrusters, still requires further investigation. Additionally, understanding the role of dynamic processes such as turbulence and instabilities in energy transport and distribution within solar wind plasma flows is crucial for enhancing our knowledge of the solar wind and ensuring the success of space exploration missions. These plasma flows, being rarefied and collisionless, deviate from equilibrium, necessitating kinetic models for accurate representation. However, the high computational demand of kinetic models limits their practical use in engineering. Fluid models, while much faster, often fail to accurately depict these non-equilibrium flows. Addressing this, the development of efficient, accurate predictive models using hybrid approaches with properly designed electron closure models is important for the future digital design of spacecraft electric propulsion thrusters and space missions. However, constructing these electron closure models, which require detailed microscopic kinetic physics, remains a poorly understood problem and a significant challenge. This talk will present advancements in using grid-based fully kinetic method for studying plasma flows in EP thrusters and the application of fully kinetic method for studying solar wind, aiming to build effective electron closure models. I will discuss the relationships between microscopic kinetic physics and macroscopic plasma flow dynamics and the influence of these relationships on building proper electron closure models. Specifically, I will use the expansion of spacecraft electric propulsion plasma plumes and the interplay of whistler instabilities and turbulence in the solar wind as examples. These cases will illustrate the significant impact of microscopic kinetic processes on the macroscopic behavior of plasma dynamics.

Chen Cui is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Mississippi State University. Chen Cui received his PhD in Astronautical Engineering from the University of Southern California in 2023, where he also completed his Master’s degree in High-Performance Computing. Chen Cui earned his Bachelor’s degree from Beihang University in 2017. Chen Cui’s research intersects plasma dynamics, aerospace engineering, and high-performance computing, focusing on the high-fidelity predictive modeling of plasma flows in spacecraft electric propulsion thrusters and solar wind. His work aims to bridge microscopic physics with macroscopic dynamics of plasma flows in spacecraft electric propulsion thrusters and solar wind. Chen Cui is the primary developer of Vlasolver, a large-scale parallelized fully kinetic plasma modeling framework.
MAE Faculty Host: Dr. Christopher “Chrispy” Petersen