Research lab: Department of Civil and Industrial Engineering/Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry
Largo Lucio Lazzarino, 56122, Pisa, Italy/Via Giuseppe Moruzzi 16, 56124 Pisa, Italy
Department of Civil and Industrial Engineering/Department of Information Engineering

Carla Guidi

Aerospace Engineer; PhD Student

My name is Carla Guidi and I was born in Pietrasanta (Lu) in Italy. My academic studies are the result of my curiosity towards Space, which has always been something of mysterious but very fascinating at the same time. In 2020, I have obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering with the maximum score on time, I selected the topic of my thesis with the consciousness of undertaking the Space curriculum following studies. The thesis was about analysis of signals measured in a hollow cathode varying the operative conditions. During this work I became aware of what research means because I was supported by a PhD student that instilled in me her love for what she was doing, then I had the possibility to read papers of people coming from different institutions in the world and understand how this research field is a very worldwide sector. In 2022, I have obtained my Master’s degree on time, in which the electric propulsion courses have been my favourite classes. My Master thesis project was about the development of numerical methodologies for an alternative qualification strategy of high-power thrusters in the frame of the H2020 ASPIRE European Project in which the University of Pisa is participating. Currently, I am a Ph.D. student in the Smart Industry Program at the University of Pisa and in particular my interests are in electric propulsion for the aerospace field. My research proposal is about searching possible methods to guarantee longer operative life of one of the main components of a Hall Thruster: the hollow cathode. Currently, she takes part in tests regarding cathodes that work with a new propellant, Iodine. Then she contributes to a European Project for a new design of this component using additive manufacturing techniques. Her previous academic studies concerned Aerospace Engineering; in fact, she is a supporter of discovering new technological devices for allowing the next space missions to go beyond the actual limit of exploration.


Aerospace engineering, Data analysis, Electric Propulsion.

Research Topic:

During my doctoral research program, I decided to study issues related to hollow cathodes, which are the component of Hall effect thrusters responsible for ionizing the propellant and supporting the discharge. My research focuses on finding possible solutions to ensure a longer operational life of the cathode, as its lifespan depends on the discharge current, mass flow, erosion of the tube and electrode, and instabilities. My work is part of the research for the next generation of space missions that require a lifespan not yet supported by current cathode technology (>10 kh). Consequently, it is crucial to gain a comprehensive understanding of the operation of hollow cathodes. I am involved in several European projects in which the University of Pisa is a member. During the first year of my Ph.D., I conducted research activities related to the design of a high-power cathode (CHEOPS Project) and worked on Bayesian analysis in the study of anomalous diffusivity in Hall thrusters. Additionally, I worked in a laboratory in the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry on activities involving iodine as an alternative propellant. I also participated in two workshops (EPIC 2023 and WECM’23). During the second year of my Ph.D., I continued my work on the high-power cathode, and we are currently in the procurement phase. Furthermore, the activities with iodine have progressed, and after developing a low-power cathode, we are working now in the testing phase of the iodine cathode. During the second year I participated in two conferences: the 9th Space Propulsion Conference and the 38th International Electric Propulsion Conference, where I Presented my research activities. I chose NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as the institution for my research period abroad during my doctorate because, as a center of excellence, it will provide me with a comprehensive experience, both technologically and personally. I will start my internship period at the beginning of July 2024. During this period abroad, I will study high-power hollow cathodes, and my commitment will be to work on methods to better understand the instabilities and production of energetic ions that erode the orifice and electrodes. In these analyses, I will use both invasive methods such as RPA probes and non-invasive techniques such as laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) spectroscopy, capable of acquiring statistical quantities to determine the thermodynamic state and relevant characteristics, such as temperature and velocity of the energetic ions. This approach allows for the prediction of ion behavior near the orifice to study their path and avoid energetic impacts that would erode the plate and tube walls, reducing the useful life of the cathode. During my stay at JPL, I will also conduct wear tests to understand how the evaporation rate of the insert affects the life of the cathode. From this experience, I expect to learn new methodologies to tackle laboratory problems and collect experimental data for analysis. This activity aligns with the path I have undertaken in Italy, seeking solutions to achieve longer-lasting cathodes. In Italy, I am involved in R&D projects in collaboration with ESA, such as the ESA GSTP regarding the use of iodine as an alternative propellant for powering the cathode and the H2020 Program for the design and production of a laboratory model cathode. My future goal is to gain extensive experience in the field of electric propulsion with the aim of pursuing an academic career. In conclusion, I hope that the activities in my doctoral program will provide me with the confidence and knowledge to become an expert in the field of electric propulsion, and I believe these experiences will contribute to the development of my professional and educational skills.

Other Activities:

I was involved in several activities: Introduction to MATLAB Programming Language (Bachelor's Degree: Aerospace Engineering), Support for Electric Propulsion Laboratory Activities (Master's Degree: Aerospace Engineering - Space Engineering), Support for Materials for Design - Material Selection for Projects (Bachelor's Degree: Industrial Design Engineering).