Paschen Project

UCF Wind Tunnel SetupKennedy Space Center’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs is collaborating with the University of Central Florida in Orlando on the Dynamic Paschen project, designed to evaluate how Paschen’s Law is affected if fluid is moving. Paschen’s Law describes the voltage necessary to create an arc through various gasses. The Dynamic Paschen project could play a role in the design of future planetary missions.

NASA researchers Dr. Michael Hogue and Rachel Cox are working with UCF graduate student Jaysen Mulligan on Dynamic Paschen. Initial data collection began last week, and the team now is collecting full data sets for the project. The team is varying both the speed of the air (ranging from Mach 3 to 4) and the gap distance between the electrodes (from 0.5 to 2.0 cm).

Experimental data from the Dynamic Paschen project will be used to validate theoretical models of changes to Paschen’s Law that take into account the flow of gas past charged surfaces. The team’s findings could provide insights into how breakdown voltage is affected by fast-moving air, and could help scientists better understand how static electricity in the air behaves when an aerospace vehicle moves through planetary atmospheres.

Photo credit: NASA