Towards a Carbon Nanotube Ionization Source for Planetary Atmosphere Exploration

Abstract : The characterization of planetary exospheres today, relies on the development of a highly efficient ionization source, due to the scant neutral molecules (n < 108 cm -3) present in diffuse planetary coronae. These tenuous atmospheres provide insight on to physical processes known to occur such as: space weathering, magneto-atmosphere interactions, as well as atmospheric escape mechanisms, all of which are being heavily investigated via current 3D Monte Carlo simulations (Turc et al. 2014, Leblanc et al. 2016 in prep) at LATMOS. Validation of these studies will rely on in-situ observations in the coming decades. Neutral detection strongly depends on electron-impact ionization which via conventional cathode-sources, such as thermal filaments (heated up to 2000 K), may only produce the target ionization essential for energy-measurements with large power consumption. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) however are ideal low-power, cold cathodes, when subject to moderate electric fields (E ~ 1 MV / m). We present our current device, a small CNT chip, of emission area 15 mm2, emitting electrons that pass through an anode grid and subsequent electrostatic analyzer. The device currently extracts hundreds of µAmperes with applied external voltages ~ -150 Volts, approaching minimum power consumption < 0.1 Watts. The 3D modeling of field effect electrons ionizing a standard influx of neutrals is shown, using the multiphysics suite COMSOL. To better anticipate the species an ideal in-situ spacecraft equipped with such an ionization source would observe, we discuss Europa’s exosphere. Europa’s environment is largely shaped by the Jovian plasma sputtering the icy regolith with heavy ions and electrons (keV < E < MeV), producing predominately molecular oxygen (Johnson et al. 2002).
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  • HAL Id : insu-01250430, version 1

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Apurva Oza, François Leblanc, Jean-Jacques Berthelier, Joël Becker, Romain Coulomb, et al.. Towards a Carbon Nanotube Ionization Source for Planetary Atmosphere Exploration. AGU Fall Meeting 2015, Dec 2015, San Francisco, United States. pp.P11B-2071. 〈insu-01250430〉

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