A continuous-wave cavity ring-down spectroscopy sensor for real-time measurements of sputtered boron from Hall thrusters has been developed. The sensor uses a continuous-wave frequency-quadrupled diode laser at 250 nm to probe ground state atomic boron sputtered from the boron nitride insulating channel. Validation results from a controlled setup using an ion beam and target showed good agreement with a simple finite-element model. Application of the sensor for measurements of two Hall thrusters, the H6 and SPT-70, is described. The H6 was tested at power levels ranging from 1.5 to 10 kW. Peak boron densities of 10 ± 2 × 1014 m-3 were measured in the thruster plume, and the estimated eroded channel volume agreed within a factor of 2 of profilometry. The SPT-70 was tested at 600 and 660 W, yielding peak boron densities of 7.2 ± 1.1 × 1014 m-3, and the estimated erosion rate agreed within ∼20% of profilometry. Technical challenges associated with operating a high-finesse cavity in the presence of energetic plasma are also discussed.
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