Joseph Schmidt

MIT Department: Aeronautics and Astronautics
Undergraduate Institution: University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Faculty Mentor: Paulo Lozano
Research Supervisor: Elaine Petro, PhD
Website: LinkedIn

2019 Research Poster


I was born in Texas but have lived in Indonesia, Mexico, and Papua New Guinea as a third culture kid. I attend the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) studying Mechanical Engineering with minors in Physics and Pure Mathematics. My goal is to design space propulsion systems that travel faster than light and jumpstart human colonization of space. My hobbies include dancing, parkour/free-running, cooking, and attempting to solve the Collatz conjecture.

2019 Research Abstract

Simulating the Fragmentation of Ions in the Ion Electrospray Propulsion System (iEPS)

Joseph Schmidt1, Elaine Petro2 and Paulo Lozano3
1College of Engineering and Computer Science, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
2, 3Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

With the advent of CubeSats, space missions can now be done in a more cost-effective manner while maintaining the same technological level of large satellite missions. Mainstream microthruster systems tend to be complex, power intensive, and inefficient which severally reduces mission lifespan. The Ion Electrospray Propulsion System (iEPS) counters these issues by using capillary action to passively transport ionic propellant to charged emitter tips causing ions to be ejection for thrust.  During ejection, however, ions tend to electrically bond into large structures called droplets that are difficult to accelerate because of their small charge to mass ratio. Using simulations, we studied droplet fragmentation and how this affected the thruster performance and characteristic plume shape. Because the simulations require 105 particles or more it becomes computationally expensive to compute 1-on-1 particle interactions and we rely on particle-in-cell (PIC) as a technique to minimize computational time by interacting each particle with an electric field caused by the ions. With the ionic fuel of EMI-BF4, we simulated dimers of (EMI-BF4)EMI+ and how they break apart into plus monomers of EMI+ and neutral pairs of (EMI-BF4). By understanding simulated factors that affect droplet breakup, we can compare them against laboratory results to optimize the iEPS performance and offer a noncomplex, low-power, and affordable option for microsatellites to advance the progress of satellite propulsion.