The University of Michigan
Department of Aerospace Engineering
| Plasmadynamics & Electric Propulsion Laboratory |
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PEPL Facilities
Large Vacuum Test Facility (LVTF)
The centerpiece of the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory at the University of Michigan is the Large Vacuum Test Facility. This cylindrical stainless-steel clad tank, which is 9 m long and 6 m in diameter, is the largest vacuum facility of its kind at any university in the nation. The chamber is evacuated by two 2,000 cfm blowers and four 400 cfm mechanical pumps to moderate vacuum (30 - 100 mTorr). To reach high-vacuum (10-7 Torr), the chamber employs seven CVI TM-1200 nude cryopumps, with a combined pumping speed of 500,000 l/s on air, and 240,000 l/s on xenon. For propulsion systems which primarily use hydrogen (e.g., electrothermal engines), the facility is supported by six 81-cm-diameter diffusion pumps (with water-cooled coldtraps) backed by the two blowers and four mechanical pumps described above. These pumps give the facility an overall pumping speed of over 300,000 l/s on hydrogen at 10-4 Torr. [view more facility photos...]
Location: Auxiliary Services Building, 1919 Green Rd. Rm. B107, Ann Arbor, MI. 48109-2564
Telephone:(734)764-4199
Fax:(734)763-7158
Cathode Test Facility (CTF)
A smaller chamber is used at PEPL for testing very small engines and hollow cathodes. The Cathode Test Facility (CTF) is a 2 meter long by 0.6 meter diameter vacuum chamber that is pumped by a 135 CFM mechanical pump for roughing and a CVI TM500 (20 inch) cryopump with a measured xenon pumping speed of 1,500 l/s. Base pressure for the facility is 2x10-8 Torr. Experiments conducted to date include Laser Induced Fluorescence (LIF) and electron energy distribution function measurements of the plume of a hollow cathode plasma contactor, thermography of the hollow cathode, electron beam probing of the cathode-to-keeper gap, helicon work (2005-2009), and high-power HET cathode development (2010). [view more facility photos...]
Location: Auxiliary Services Building, 1919 Green Rd. Rm. B107, Ann Arbor, MI. 48109-2564
Telephone:(734)764-4199
Fax:(734)763-7158
Junior Test Facility ("Foster Chamber")
The laboratory also operates a smaller vacuum chamber that is 3 m long and 1 m in diameter, which is attached to the Large Vacuum Test Facility (LVTF) via a 60-cm-diameter gate valve. The facility is referred to as the "Foster chamber" in the lab because it was first used by Ph.D. grad John Foster for his dissertation work. This vessel can be evacuated independently of the main chamber and serves as a test cell for conducting fundamental studies on plasma-electrode interactions (e.g., Stark broadening electric field measurements). Upgrades to the facility in 2007-2008 included the addition of a new turbo-pumping system and Faraday cage for helicon work. This chamber can presently attain a pressure of <5x10-5 Torr in under 30 minutes. [view more facility photos...]
Location: Auxiliary Services Building, 1919 Green Rd. Rm. B107, Ann Arbor, MI. 48109-2564
Telephone:(734)764-4199
Fax:(734)763-7158
Nanosatellite Engine Operation Vacuum Chamber (NEOVac)
The most recent addition to the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory is the Nanosatellite Engine Operation Vacuum Chamber (NEOVac). This chamber is intended to test propulsion for small satellites such as CubeSats such as the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT). NEOVAc is a 3 ft diameter 5 ft long steel chamber. The chamber is brought to rough vacuum with a scroll pump and reaches high vacuum using a cryogenic pump. The pumping speed is 1500 l/s on air and the facility has a base pressure of is 1x10-7 Torr. The chamber includes a 2-D motion stage which can be used for probes. Currently this chamber is primarily used to test the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster. [view more facility photos...]
Location: Auxiliary Services Building, 1919 Green Rd. Rm. B107, Ann Arbor, MI. 48109-2564
Telephone:(734)764-4199
Fax:(734)763-7158
Laser Room
Temperature controlled darkroom filled with various lasers, laser tables, and laser optics used for chamber diagnostics (see laser diagnostics). [view more facility photos...]
Location: Auxiliary Services Building, 1919 Green Rd. Rm. B107, Ann Arbor, MI. 48109-2564
Telephone:(734)764-4199
Fax:(734)763-7158
Clean Room
A clean room (close to ISO 6 class filtration) wherein most of PEPL's electric propulsion thrusters, cathodes, and other sensitive plasma devices are stored. Nitrogen purges are continually active on the more sensitive devices (e.g. cathodes, PMTs, etc.). [view more facility photos...]
Location: Auxiliary Services Building, 1919 Green Rd. Rm. B105, Ann Arbor, MI. 48109-2564
Telephone:(734)764-4199
Fax:(734)763-7158
Machine Shop
An in laboratory machining shop with a mill, lathe, belt/disk sanders, drill press, band saw, raw material storage (e.g. unistrut, 80-20, etc.), grinders, and other various equipment. [view more facility photos...]
Location: Auxiliary Services Building, 1919 Green Rd. Rm. B111, Ann Arbor, MI. 48109-2564
Telephone:(734)764-4199
Fax:(734)763-7158
Electronics Bench
An area inside the main laboratory used to assemble electronic components for various PEPL research projects. [view more facility photos...]
Location: Auxiliary Services Building, 1919 Green Rd. Rm. B107, Ann Arbor, MI. 48109-2564
Telephone:(734)764-4199
Fax:(734)763-7158
François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Building
Home to the University of Michigan, Department of Aerospace Engineering. All PEPL member (faculty, postdoc, and graduate student) offices are located within this 90,000 sq.-ft. building. [view more facility photos...]
Location: FXB Building, 1320 Beal Ave., Ann Arbor, MI. 48109-2140
Telephone:(734)615-4406
Fax:(734)763-0578
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Page Last Modified: Saturday, 23-Jan-2016 00:53:58 EST
PEPL is part of the University of Michigan, Department of Aerospace Engineering.
Feedback and questions about PEPL and this web site may be directed to the laboratory director, webmaster, or the laboratory land line, (734)764-4199.