The attachment length in orificed hollow cathodes
A first-principles approach to obtain the attachment length within a hollow cathode with a constrictive orifice, and its scaling with internal cathode pressure, is developed. This parameter, defined herein as the plasma density decay length scale upstream of (away from) the cathode orifice, is critical because it controls the utilization of the hollow cathode insert and influences cathode life. A two-dimensional framework is developed from the ambipolar diffusion equation for the insert-region plasma. A closed-form solution for the plasma density is obtained using standard partial differential equation techniques by applying an approximate boundary condition at the cathode orifice plane. This approach also yields the attachment length and electron temperature without reliance on measured plasma property data or complex computational models. The predicted plasma density profile is validated against measurements from the NSTAR discharge cathode, and calculated electron temperatures and attachment lengths agree with published values. Nondimensionalization of the governing equations reveals that the solution depends almost exclusively on the neutral pressure-diameter product in the insert plasma region. Evaluation of analytical results over a wide range of input parameters yields scaling relations for the variation of the attachment length and electron temperature with the pressure-diameter product. For the range of orifice-to-insert diameter ratio studied, the influence of orifice size is shown to be small except through its effect on insert pressure, and the attachment length is shown to be proportional to the insert inner radius, suggesting high-pressure cathodes should be constructed with larger-diameter inserts.