How hypergravity impacts electric arcs

December 18, 2013

A new study on electric discharge behaviour under intense gravitational forces shows that its dynamic changes as gravity increases.

Arc discharges are common in everyday conditions like welding or in lightning storms. But in altered , not as much is known about the behaviour of electric discharges. For the first time, Jiří Šperka from Masaryk University, Czech Republic, and his Dutch colleagues studied the behaviour of a special type of arc discharge, so-called glide arc, in varying hypergravity conditions, up to 18 G. In a paper just published in EPJ D, they demonstrate how the of this glide arc discharge moves due to external forces of buoyancy in varying gravity conditions. These results could have implications for improved safety precautions in manned space flights, and in the design of ion thrusters used for spacecraft propulsion.

Though electric discharges can be affected by gravity, the electromagnetic forces between charged particles are typically much stronger than any . Therefore, in order to understand this effect, the authors designed an experimental device to perform measurements on atmospheric pressure glide arc helium plasma under the forces of hypergravity.

They changed the buoyancy force acting on the plasma channel of the glide arc while maintaining a constantly low external gas flow. To do so they relied on the Large Diameter Centrifuge at the European Space Agency's European space research and technology centre (ESTEC) facility in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

They found that gravity strongly influences the glide arc discharge. These effects stem from thermal buoyancy, which increases with gravity. As such, increasing the centrifugal acceleration of gravity makes the glide arc movement substantially faster. Whereas at 1 G the discharge was stationary, at 6 G it glides with 7 Hz frequency and at 18 G that number rises to 11 Hz. The authors thus established a simple model for the glide arc movement assuming low gas flow velocities, which they validated with experimental results.

Explore further: Vacuum arcs spark new interest

More information: J. Šperka et al. (2013), Hypergravity Effects on Glide Arc Plasma, European Physical Journal D 67: 261, DOI: 10.1140/epjd/e2013-40408-7

Related Stories

Vacuum arcs spark new interest

November 8, 2010

Whenever two pieces of metal at different voltages are brought near each other, as when an appliance is plugged into a live socket, there is a chance there will be an arc between them. Most of the arcs people see are a breakdown ...

Plasma screens enhanced as disorder strikes

October 11, 2012

A new study improves our understanding of plasma sources, a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionised and which are used for example in plasma display panels. These results revealed ...

Magnetic shielding of ion beam thruster walls

February 13, 2013

Electric rocket engines known as Hall thrusters, which use a super high-velocity stream of ions to propel a spacecraft in space, have been used successfully onboard many missions for half a century. Erosion of the discharge ...

Two space launch workers burned at Calif. base

March 12, 2013

(AP)—Two workers for a company that launches spacecraft for the U.S. government were seriously injured in an electrical explosion at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast.

Recommended for you

The sound of music, according to physicists

July 30, 2015

Joshua Bodon is sick of hearing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." More specifically, he's sick of hearing one 25-second clip of the song repeated more than 550 times.

Researchers build bacteria's photosynthetic engine

July 29, 2015

Nearly all life on Earth depends on photosynthesis, the conversion of light energy into chemical energy. Oxygen-producing plants and cyanobacteria perfected this process 2.7 billion years ago. But the first photosynthetic ...

Rogue wave theory to save ships

July 29, 2015

Physicists have found an explanation for rogue waves in the ocean and hope their theory will lead to devices to warn ships and save lives.

Scientists unlock secrets of stars through aluminium

July 29, 2015

Physicists at the University of York have revealed a new understanding of nucleosynthesis in stars, providing insight into the role massive stars play in the evolution of the Milky Way and the origins of the Solar System.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VENDItardE
1 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2013
"They found that gravity strongly influences the glide arc discharge"

no, they didn't. what they found is that centrifugal force strongly influences the glide arc discharge

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.