Triboelectric charging occurs on aerospace vehicle surfaces from the friction between the vehicle surfaces and microscopic dust and ice particles in Earth's atmosphere. This phenomenon increases the likelihood of an electrostatic discharge (ESD) occurring on the vehicle surface. Paschen's law defines the breakdown voltage, the voltage at which an ESD will occur, of electrically conductive materials separated in a static gas medium. However, limited work has been done to predict the breakdown voltage between two electrical conductors in a dynamic gas medium. Establishing an understanding of ESD in dynamic gas mediums could relax the launch commit criterion and minimize the number of scrubbed launches in the burgeoning commercial space industry. The following work seeks to experimentally validate a modified Paschen law which accounts for the effects of electron-ion pair removal between two electrodes within a dynamic gas medium. This work is accomplished using a custom supersonic wind tunnel with aluminum electrodes integrated into the test section. A Glassman high voltage power supply is utilized to charge the electrodes up to 60 kV until discharge occurs. Magnecor KV85 spark plug wires are used to safely transmit the high voltage from the power supply to the electrodes. The discharge voltage of the electrodes is recorded over the targeted pressures ranges within the test section. The results show that the breakdown voltage for the dynamic cases are greater than that of the static cases. This supports the hypothesis that a higher voltage is required for a dynamic gas medium due to the removal of electron-ion pairs during mass flow.
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Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering (M.S.A.E.)
College of Engineering and Computer Science
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Aerospace Engineering; Thermofluid Aerodynamic Systems
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)
Woodard, Andre, "An Experimental Validation of a Revised Paschen's Law Relating to the Electrostatic Discharge of Aerospace Vehicle Surfaces" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 626.
Restricted to the UCF community until February 2026; it will then be open access.