Temperature Is Our Business

Heaters - Expanding our horizons in Ion Thrusters

Satellite

 

Ion thrusters are used in a variety of applications, from keeping satellites in their correct position to propelling spacecraft throughout our solar system. For each thrust that one of these thrusters creates it uses a relatively low rate of propellant consumption, so they require significantly less propellant than what would be needed with chemical propulsion. In some cases where insufficient chemical fuel cannot be carried on the spacecraft Ion propulsion is the only solution to complete the desired mission.

According to NASA Ion Thrusters are now being used in over 100 of their Earth orbit communication satellites to keep them in their desired locations, and three NSTAR ion thrusters are enabling the Dawn spacecraft (launched in 2007) to travel deep into our solar system. And technology is being developed now that could one day see Ion Thrusters propelling humans to Mars.

How do Ion Thrusters Work?

Ion Thrusters work by ionizing a fuel by adding or removing electrons to produce ions. Most thrusters ionize the propellant by electron bombardment – a high energy electron (negative charge) collides with a propellant atom (neutral charge), releasing electrons from the propellant atom and resulting in a positively charged ion.

The thrust comes from an ion stream at very high velocities. This is called Plasma. Plasma has some of the properties of gas but is affected by electric and magnetic fields. A typical plasma thruster will have a heater to generate the heat needed to allow the plasma to start flowing in the Ion Thrusters. The plasma carries a current between the ionizing anode and a cathode. The current in turn generates a magnetic field at right angles to the electric field, and thereby accelerates the positive ions out of the engine to create the required thrust.

Heater solutions

At the heart of an Ion Thruster is the chamber that holds the cathodes. The cathodes are a part of the plasma generating system which give these thrusters their long life. Attached to the cathodes you will have heaters which will generate the required heat to allow the plasma to start flowing within the Ion thruster.

As mentioned earlier Ion Thrusters can have a very long lifetime so all elements involved in their construction are of course expected to meet the same lifetime of use. At Okazaki along with our colleagues at ARi, we have developed heater cable which is durable and offers a long lifetime suitable to be used in Ion thrusters.  

Development of our heating solutions required researching the latest materials and technologies to produce some of the highest quality heaters possible which can reach the high temperatures required to ignite the plasma within Ion thrusters, yet still provide the long-life reliability needed for deep space applications. We have achieved this by using refractory metals that allow us to reach temperatures that base metals are unable to attain.

The Future

Ion Thruster technology is evolving all the time as our horizons broaden deeper and deeper into space so at Okazaki our engineers continue to develop heater cable solutions to meet these ever-expanding demands.

The future is very exciting.

For more information our ‘Heaters for Ion Thrusters’ Datasheet can be found here. Alternatively contact sales@okazaki-mfg.co.uk if you’d like to discuss our heaters and other products.

 



Micropak – Small in Name, Huge in Performance

Micropak

Micropak – Small in Name, Huge in Performance

In our last article, we focused on our specialism in vacuum operations. This piece features our specific range of Micropak heaters. With temperature being our core focus at Okazaki, we’re particularly proud to deliver our expert range of mineral insulated heaters perfectly suited to the vacuum industry.

The Micropak heater has been chosen by many of our clients across the globe as their ideal choice of heating solutions in varying applications such as ion implants, patterning, removing doping and valve heaters.

Certainly in the vacuum operation industry, we’re fully aware of the importance that you have in finding heating solutions that are highly effective and able to operate in extreme conditions. As the world’s leading manufacturer of mineral insulated cable, we’ve made it our commitment to design solutions that meet these extensive temperature needs. In fact, we’ve spent over the past 60 years, developing the latest products and using leading-edge technologies to meet the needs of our extensive range of clients. We also know that accuracy and reliability are extremely important for your ability in maintaining production and operation.

If flexibility is a key factor in your vacuum operation needs, the Micropak heaters certainly deliver. Being ultra-small, they offer far greater flexibility. They benefit from a small bend radius as a ratio to the outside diameter of the heater. Not only that, the units can be coiled and freely formed into complex shapes as desired. This makes them particularly ideal where space is limited.

As for the range of applications that the Micropak heaters are suitable, we’ve seen our Micropak heaters used for a wide range of applications. These have included analytical instrumentation devices, fuel cells and vacuum applications. You’ll also be able to choose from an extensive range of diameter, lengths, materials and terminations. Certainly, it’s highly feasible for a wide operating range to be achieved of between -200°C to 500°C.

At Okazaki, we’ve also had a strong belief that one size doesn’t fit all. So for this reason, we’re able to design the Micropak heaters bespoke to your specific application. These include conductor coil configuration in Model MP11; providing different outputs at specific points of the heater.

A further benefit of the Micropak heater is that it also has the same diameter hot and cold sections with no external join. This helps remove mechanical joint failure which also makes it ideal for installation into vacuum sealing flanges.

 



Experts in Heating for the Vacuum Industry

VAcuum

Experts in Heating for the Vacuum Industry

If you’re working in the semi-conductor industry, you’ll no doubt appreciate the importance of effective high temperature plate heaters when it comes to choosing the right products for vacuum operations. With temperature being our business, at Okazaki we’ve always specialised in delivering solutions that have the capability to operate in extreme conditions. Certainly superior performance and the ability to cater for a uniform surface temperature is absolutely key.

We know how you need solutions that adhere to very specific conditions. All of our plate heaters are fully manufactured and assembled at our dedicated facilities. As we use our own carefully designed mineral insulated heater thermocouples, you can be guaranteed that each unit is finished to the highest of standards. In fact, all of our units are extensively tested to ensure uniformity within 1% to make sure that they have the capability to operate to 1000°C.

We also recognise that one product doesn’t fit all. Which is why we’re able to offer a range of plate heaters in a variety of shapes and sizes – including round and square. Materials-wise, we’re able to give you a wide choice including aluminium Inconel alloys and stainless steel, amongst others.

Our Aeroheat heater in particular is a long-life mineral insulated metal sheathed heater. Having been manufactured from a single diameter cable with no internal joins to eliminate mechanical failure points, the heater assemblies benefit from an integrated un-heated cold section. This means that there’s no additional need for costly infrastructure such as water cooling pipe work or alternative systems to maintain lower temperatures. In addition to this, you’ll also look forward to a reduction in overall plant running cost – helping you to meet environment operating costs.

You can simply integrate the Aeroheat heater and its terminations into sealing flanges or ports, which means that full sealing is maintained – even in the highest of vacuum atmospheres.

Particularly beneficial in all forms of deposition equipment, the Aeroheat makes for an excellent choice in ALD, CVD, ion plating and sputtering. Precise temperature control can soon be achieved by arranging a set of multiple panel heaters. This is even possible with the largest of today’s and future glass substrates including Generation 10 and above. Plus, a circuit partition is also possible in order to compensate for any local temperature decrease caused by the carriers.

 



Out of this World Sensors and Heaters

Mars Rover

Out of this World Sensors and Heaters

When it comes to some of the most challenging environments known and even unknown to man, there can be few locations that are as challenging as the moon.  So, when Okazaki was challenged with delivering heaters and sensors for the NASA Mars Curiosity Rover, this certainly presented a worthy proposition.

At Okazaki, we’ve always understood that our valued clients across the globe require extreme levels of product reliability.  We know that time is money, and any impact on production or service can result in serious implications both financially and regarding safety.  We also know that our clients appreciate that world-class quality is our benchmark.

For the purpose of the NASA Mars Curiosity Rover, NASA opted to use Micropak heaters in order to heat the sampling tubes inside the vehicle.  The challenge here was to benefit from greater flexibility when space is particularly paramount. With a small bend radius as a ratio to the outside diameter of heater, the units proved flexible thanks to their ability to be coiled and freely formed into complex and desired shapes.

As part of their investigations, demands on working in an extreme temperature range were certainly met thanks to the operating range of -200 to 500°C which can be achieved by the Micropak heaters.

A further benefit to the project was that the Micropak heater has the same diameter hot and cold sections.  Also, it has no external join which reduces the risk of mechanical joint failure while at the same time as being suitable for being installed in vacuum sealing flanges.

At Okazaki, our engineers and developers are constantly looking to use the latest technical advances to improve the efficiency and safety of our products.  For more info on how our heating and temperature sensors can be used in extreme working environments, please contact Leona Lilford

 



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e: sales@okazaki-mfg.co.uk

Okazaki
Manufacturing Company
UK Limited

Ashwood House,
66 Cardiff Road,
Glan-y-llyn,
Taffs Well
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF15 7QE
United Kingdom