It seems like electric propulsion will be the most viable candidate for current and future interplanetary missions. However, I was wondering what type of research is currently being done on Hall Effect thrusters in particular, and what the current limitations of such systems are (besides their low levels of thrust which are unfortunately inherent to all EP devices). It seems like a lot of work is being done on limiting erosion rates along channel/anode walls since operation times need to be extended into thousands of hours, and am I correct in thinking that the development of accurate numerical models is also an active part of current research as well? I'd love to hear of anything else being done.

HT-400 thruster in operation

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    $\begingroup$ A search of NASA's Technical Reports server for 'Hall effect thruster' reveals 2,695 documents. The most recent 10 docs were published in the last couple of years. ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 11:50

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You are correct; channel erosion rate is a big area of research.

There is a substantial amount of research into upping the power level of EP thrusters so that the trajectories won't take as long. I have heard that when Hall thruster reach 700 kWatt power levels, an EP trajectory to Mars will be faster than a Hohman transfer to Mars. https://news.umich.edu/thruster-for-mars-mission-breaks-records/

Generating initial guesses for EP trajectories for the initial step in optimization routines is also an active area of research. Shape based optimizers have been getting a lot of attention recently. https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/10.2514/1.G000144


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