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Harry Ellis
Professor of Physics

Eckerd College
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711

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Theoretical Plasma Physics

Dr. Eduardo Fernandez

Dr. Fernandez is interested in the rich nonlinear dynamics of fusion and astrophysical plasmas, as well as plasmas in electric propulsion devices like Hall thrusters. Applications of Hall thrusters include satellite station keeping and orbit transfer. The recent SMART 1 research mission to the moon by the European Space Agency employed a Hall thruster as its main propulsion mechanism.  Hall thrusters generate thrust by ejecting a plasma via an electric field (unlike chemical rockets which generate thrust as a result of the combustion of propellant).  While the basic operation of these thrusters is understood, key physics issues remain open for investigation.  Dr. Fernandez, in collaboration with Mark Cappelli’s group at Stanford University, has developed a hybrid Particle in Cell (PIC) code to simulate the physics in these engines. The two dimensional simulation resolves the plasma density, electron temperature, electric current and potential, as well as ion and neutral dynamics in an non-uniform geometry covering the thruster channel and near plume. This work supports Mark Cappelli’s ongoing experimental research effort at Stanford, where a prototype Hall thruster is in operation in Professor Cappelli’s Plasma Dynamics Laboratory. Eckerd College students have been involved in this research as well, and their work has been presented at national meetings. Recent results, involving a new Hall thruster code that Dr. Fernandez is developing, have been presented at the 29th International Electric Propulsion Conference at Princeton University.

Dr. Fernandez also studies turbulence in astrophysical plasmas like the interstellar medium and solar wind, as well as turbulence in magnetically-confined fusion devices like tokamaks. Turbulence is believed to be a major obstacle in the achievement of nuclear fusion, but great progress has been made.  Dr. Fernandez's research has resulted in collaborations with the University of Wisconsin and the TFTR tokamak plasma physics group at Princeton University.

Physics Majors

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The James Center

Center for Molecular and Life Sciences

Equipped with the latest in eco-conscious innovations, educational technology and scientific instrumentation, the James Center for Molecular and Life Sciences will advance our efforts to prepare tomorrow’s leaders in the sciences, and will quickly become the hub of the Natural Sciences at Eckerd College. Discover the James Center.