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Daytona Beach


Physical Sciences

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Langmuir probes are standard instruments for plasma density measurements on many sounding rockets. These probes can be operated in swept-bias as well as in fixed-bias modes. In swept-bias Langmuir probes, contamination effects are frequently visible as a hysteresis between consecutive up and down voltage ramps. This hysteresis, if not corrected, leads to poorly determined plasma densities and temperatures. With a properly chosen sweep function, the contamination parameters can be determined from the measurements and correct plasma parameters can then be determined. In this paper, we study the contamination effects on fixed-bias Langmuir probes, where no hysteresis type effect is seen in the data. Even though the contamination is not evident from the measurements, it does affect the plasma density fluctuation spectrum as measured by the fixed-bias Langmuir probe. We model the contamination as a simple resistor-capacitor circuit between the probe surface and the plasma. We find that measurements of small scale plasma fluctuations (meter to sub-meter scale) along a rocket trajectory are not affected, but the measured amplitude of large scale plasma density variation (tens of meters or larger) is attenuated. From the model calculations, we determine amplitude and cross-over frequency of the contamination effect on fixed-bias probes for different contamination parameters. The model results also show that a fixed bias probe operating in the ion-saturation region is affected less by contamination as compared to a fixed bias probe operating in the electron saturation region.

Publication Title

Review of Scientific Instruments



American Institute of Physics