Mario Merino

I am an associate professor at the Aerospace Engineering department of UC3M working on the design, modeling, simulation, and testing of space plasma thrusters as part of the EP2 research group. My goal is to develop new technologies that enable efficient and cheap electric space propulsion.

About me

Hi! I am a PhD aerospace engineer (graduated at UPM in 2013) who wants to learn more about how things work and use that knowledge to create new, revolutionary propulsion technologies—and, along the way, teach and share my passion with others.

My research interests are the physics of magnetized and unmagnetized plasmas, and new electric propulsion concepts such as magnetic nozzles and helicon plasma thrusters. I work with multi-fluid and kinetic plasma models, electromagnetic finite-difference and finite-element codes, and use computational techniques like the Particle-in-Cell (PIC) method. Recently, I have also initiated some experimental activities in our new plasma propulsion laboratory, and the development of nanosatellites.

In the last 8 years, I have taught various BSc and MSc Aerospace Engineering courses at UPM and UC3M, an activity that I find extremely rewarding. Presently, I teach courses on astrodynamics and space systems, aerospace modeling, and classical mechanics. I am co-author of the edX course "The Conquest of Space: space exploration and rocket science," and I am co-founder of the Spanish NGO "La Facultad Invisible," which seeks to improve university-level education.

Outside of work, I enjoy traveling, hiking, reading about maths and physics, learning languages, and tinkering with computers. I am also part of Celera Community. In case you want to know more about me, click below to see my full curriculum:

Research

I research on electric propulsion systems and plasma physics as part of the Equipo de Propulsión Espacial y Plasmas (EP2), Spain's reference research group on the modeling and numerical simulation of different types of plasma thrusters. My work in this field has received several awards. Our research group routinely works together with other international research entities (such as UPM, MIT, ONERA, CNRS) and industrial companies (e.g. SENER, Airbus Defense and Space). Our work is funded mainly by ESA, the European Commission (FP7 and H2020 programs), the Spanish R&D program, and the AFRL-EOARD, through several research projects. You can find out more in our group's website:

EP2 logo

Student opportunities

Excellent students are always welcome in our group, and many have already worked with us in the past; whether you are looking for an Erasmus+ research internship, or to do your BSc/MSc thesis in the field of electric propulsion, feel free to contact me to explore current opportunities. While rarer, PhD positions may also be available.

What are we looking for? an outstanding academic record and a solid background in calculus, linear algebra, analytical mechanics, fluid dynamics, electromagnetism, scientific programming and numerical analysis. Prior knowledge of plasma physics is welcome too but can be acquired as you work in our group. For experimental work, experience in a research laboratory is desirable. Students should be able to work autonomously and have strong analytical, critical and creative capabilities.

Publications

Below you can find and download an updated list of my recent and selected publications. If you are planning to cite the work of our group, please use the following BibTEX file to ensure all references are formatted correctly.

Peer-reviewed publications

  1. E. Ahedo & M. Merino, "Two-dimensional supersonic plasma acceleration in a magnetic nozzle", Physics of Plasmas 17, 073501 (2010)  [DOI]
  2. E. Ahedo & M. Merino, "On plasma detachment in propulsive magnetic nozzles", Physics of Plasmas 18, 053504 (2011)  [DOI]
  3. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Simulation of plasma flows in divergent magnetic nozzles", IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science 39, 2938-2939 (2011)  [DOI]
  4. E. Ahedo & M. Merino, "Two-dimensional plasma expansion in a magnetic nozzle: separation due to electron inertia", Physics of Plasmas 19, 083501 (2012)  [DOI]
  5. C. Bombardelli, H. Urrutxua, M. Merino, E. Ahedo & J. Peláez, "Relative Dynamics and Control of an Ion Beam Shepherd Satellite", published in Spaceflight mechanics 2012 143, 2145-2158, edited by James V. McAdams and David P. McKinley and Matthew M. Berry and Keith L. Jenkins . ISBN: 9780877035817, 9780877035824 (2012, Univelt)
  6. C. Bombardelli, H. Urrutxua, M. Merino, J. Peláez & E. Ahedo, "The ion beam shepherd: A new concept for asteroid deflection", Acta Astronautica 90, 98-102 (2013)  [DOI]
  7. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Two-dimensional quasi-double-layers in two-electron-temperature, current-free plasmas", Physics of Plasmas 20, 023502 (2013)  [DOI]
  8. M. Merino, E. Ahedo, C. Bombardelli, H. Urrutxua & J. Peláez, "Ion Beam Shepherd satellite for Space Debris Removal", published in Progress in Propulsion Physics IV, 789-802, edited by Luigi T. DeLuca and Christophe Bonnal and Oskar J. Haidn and Sergey M. Frolov . ISBN: 978-2-7598-0876-2 (2013, Torus Press)  [DOI]
  9. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Plasma detachment in a propulsive magnetic nozzle via ion demagnetization", Plasma Sources Science and Technology 23, 032001 (2014)  [DOI]
  10. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Influence of Electron and Ion Thermodynamics on the Magnetic Nozzle Plasma Expansion", IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science 43, 244-251 (2015)  [DOI]
  11. M. Merino, F. Cichocki & E. Ahedo, "Collisionless Plasma thruster plume expansion model", Plasma Sources Science and Technology 24, 035006 (2015)  [DOI]
  12. A. Alpatov, F. Cichocki, A. Fokov, S. Khoroshylov, M. Merino & A. Zakrzhevskii, "Determination of the Force Transmitted by an Ion Thruster Plasma Plume to an Orbital Object", Acta Astronautica 119, 241 - 251 (2016)  [DOI]
  13. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Fully magnetized plasma flow in a magnetic nozzle", Physics of Plasmas 23, 023506 (2016)  [DOI]
  14. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Effect of the plasma-induced magnetic field on a magnetic nozzle", Plasma Sources Science and Technology 25, 045012 (2016)  [DOI]
  15. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Magnetic Nozzles for Space Plasma Thrusters", published in Encyclopedia of Plasma Technology 2, edited by J. Leon Shohet (2016, Taylor and Francis)  [DOI]
  16. F. Cichocki, M. Merino, E. Ahedo, M. Smirnova, A. Mingo & M. Dobkevicius, "Electric Propulsion Subsystem Optimization for ``Ion Beam Shepherd'' Missions", Journal of Propulsion and Power 33, 370–378 (2017)  [DOI]
  17. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Contactless steering of a plasma jet with a 3D magnetic nozzle", Plasma Sources Science and Technology 26, 095001 (2017)  [DOI]
  18. F. Cichocki, A. Domínguez, M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Hybrid 3D model for the interaction of plasma thruster plumes with nearby objects", Plasma Sources Science and Technology 26, 125008 (2017)  [DOI]
  19. G. Giono, J. Gudmundsson, N. Ivchenko, S. Mazouffre, K. Dannenmayer, L. Popelier, D. Loubere, M. Merino & G. Olentsenko, "Non-Maxwellian Electron Energy Probability Functions in the plume of a SPT-100 Hall thruster", Plasma Sources Science and Technology 27, 015006 (2018)  [DOI]
  20. F. Cichocki, M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Simulation of the spacecraft-plasma-debris interaction in an ion beam shepherd mission", Acta Astronautica 146, 216–227 (2018)  [DOI]
  21. M. Merino, J. Mauriño-Aperovich & E. Ahedo, "Kinetic electron model for plasma thruster plumes", Plasma Sources Science and Technology 27, 035013 (2018)  [DOI]
  22. J. Ramos, M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Three dimensional fluid-kinetic model of a magnetically guided plasma jet", Physics of Plasmas 25, 061206 (2018)  [DOI]
  23. A. Domínguez-Vázquez, F. Cichocki, M. Merino, P. Fajardo & E. Ahedo, "Axisymmetric plasma plume characterization with 2D and 3D particle codes", Plasma Sources Science and Technology 27, 104009 (2018)  [DOI]
  24. B. Tian, M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Two-dimensional plasma-wave interaction in an helicon plasma thruster with magnetic nozzle", Plasma Sources Science and Technology 27, (2018)  [DOI]

Selected conference papers

  1. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Two-dimensional magnetic nozzle acceleration of a two-electron component plasma", in Space Propulsion Conference 2010, (2010, ESA)  [PDF]
  2. E. Ahedo & M. Merino, "On electron inertia and current ambipolarity in magnetic nozzle models", in 32nd International Electric Propulsion Conference, IEPC-2011-050 (2011, Electric Rocket Propulsion Society)  [PDF]
  3. M. Merino, E. Ahedo, C. Bombardelli, H. Urrutxua, J. Peláez & L. Summerer, "Space Debris Removal with an Ion Beam Shepherd Satellite: target-plasma interaction", in 47th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference & Exhibit, AIAA-2011-6142 (2011, AIAA)  [PDF]  [DOI]
  4. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Plasma detachment mechanisms in a magnetic nozzle", in 47th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference & Exhibit, AIAA-2011-5999 (2011, AIAA)  [PDF]  [DOI]
  5. M. Merino, E. Ahedo, C. Bombardelli, H. Urrutxua & J. Peláez, "Hypersonic Plasma Plume Expansion in Space", in 32nd International Electric Propulsion Conference, IEPC-2011-086 (2011, Electric Rocket Propulsion Society)  [PDF]
  6. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Magnetic Nozzle Far-Field Simulation", in 48th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference & Exhibit, AIAA-2012-3843 (2012, AIAA)  [PDF]  [DOI]
  7. M. Ruiz, I. Urdampilleta, C. Bombardelli, E. Ahedo, M. Merino & F. Cichocki, "The FP7 LEOSWEEP Project, improving low Earth orbit security with enhanced electric propulsion", in Space Propulsion Conference 2014, (2014, European Space Agency)  [PDF]
  8. F. Cichocki, M. Merino, E. Ahedo, Y. Hu & J. Wang, "Fluid vs PIC Modeling of a Plasma Plume Expansion", in 34th International Electric Propulsion Conference, IEPC-2015-420 (2015, Electric Rocket Propulsion Society)  [PDF]
  9. M. Merino, J. Navarro, S. Casado, E. Ahedo, V. Gómez, M. Ruiz, E. Bosch & J. G. del Amo, "Design and development of a 1kW-class helicon antenna thruster", in 34th International Electric Propulsion Conference, IEPC-2015-297 (2015, Electric Rocket Propulsion Society)  [PDF]
  10. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Towards thrust vector control with a 3D steerable magnetic nozzle", in 34th International Electric Propulsion Conference, IEPC-2015-414 (2015, Electric Rocket Propulsion Society)  [PDF]
  11. M. Merino & E. Ahedo, "Modelling the expansion of magnetized plasma jets in electric propulsion", in 32nd International Conference on Plasmas and Ionized Gases, Invited talk TL19 (2015, European Physical Society)  [PDF]
  12. M. Merino, J. Navarro, E. Ahedo, V. Gómez, V. Sánchez, M. Ruiz, K. Dannenmayer, E. Bosch & J. González, "Maiden tests of the HPT05 helicon plasma thruster prototype", in Space Propulsion Conference 2016, 3125014 (2016, European Space Agency)  [PDF]
  13. M. Merino, A. Proux, P. Fajardo & E. Ahedo, "Collisionless electron cooling in unmagnetized plasma thruster plumes", in 52th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference & Exhibit, AIAA 2016-5037 (2016, AIAA)  [PDF]  [DOI]
  14. B. Tian, E. Ahedo & M. Merino, "Development and Validation of a 2D wave-plasma code for helicon plasma thrusters", in Space Propulsion Conference 2016, 3124913 (2016, European Space Agency)  [PDF]
  15. M. Merino, J. Mauriño & E. Ahedo, "Direct-Vlasov Study of Electron Cooling Mechanisms in Paraxial, Unmagnetized Plasma Thruster Plumes", in 35th International Electric Propulsion Conference, IEPC-2017-104 (2017, Electric Rocket Propulsion Society)  [PDF]
  16. M. Merino, A. Sánchez-Villar, E. Ahedo, P. Bonoli, J. Lee, A. Ram & J. Wright, "Wave Propagation and Absorption in ECR Plasma Thrusters", in 35th International Electric Propulsion Conference, IEPC-2017-105 (2017, Electric Rocket Propulsion Society)  [PDF]
  17. Merino, M., García-Souto, J. A., Pradels, G., Daveran, F., Ghiotto, A., Kerherve, E.,Escudier, B., Gateau, T., Roche, N., Bernard, M., Dusseau, L., Fontán, E., Alonso, G., Guerman, A., Charrua-Santos, F. & da Costa Campos, L. B., "anoStar UniversityNetwork: Hands-on higher Aerospace Education through Nanosatellite Student Challenges", in 2nd Symposium on Space Educational Activities, (2018, European Space Agency)
  18. Sánchez-Villar, A. & Merino, M., "Advances in Wave-Plasma Modelling in ECR Thrusters", in Space Propulsion Conference 2018, 00346 (2018, European Space Agency)  [PDF]
  19. Cichocki, F., Merino, M. & Ahedo, E., "3D electron fluid model to study magneticfield effects on an expanding plasma thruster plume", in Space Propulsion Conference 2018, 00295 (2018, European Space Agency)  [PDF]
  20. Merino, M., Mauriño, J. & Ahedo, E., "Kinetic electron response in a rarefied plasma jet expanding into vacuum (invited talk)", in 24th Europhysics Conference on Atomic and Molecular Physics of Ionized Gases, (2018, EPS)

Code

I am currently in the process of publishing many of my numerical codes as open source for the whole research community to use freely. You can find them in my GitHub profile:

Teaching

Aerospace Engineering courses

I currently impart the following courses at UC3M as part of the BSc and MSc Aerospace Engineering programs. All courses are fully taught in English:

Orbital Mechanics and Space Vehicles

Orbital Mechanics and Space Vehicles

Fourth year, second semester BSc Aerospace Engineering. 6 ECTS.

Modeling in Aerospace Engineering

Modeling in Aerospace Engineering

Second year, second semester BSc Aerospace Engineering. 6 ECTS.

Introduction to Mechanics of Flight

Mechanics Applied to Aerospace Engineering

Second year, first semester BSc Aerospace Engineering. 6 ECTS.

Online courses

As a collective effort with other young aerospace engineering professors and PhD students, I have co-authored an EdX Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) titled "The conquest of Space: Space Exploration and Rocket Science." This 7-week course focuses on the major chapters of the History of the conquest of space—what is now being called the beginnings of the "Space Age"—and simultaneously introduces several technical topics of aerospace engineering, from orbital mechanics to the principles of chemical rocket operation, space systems, and electric propulsion. The course presentation video can be watched here:

Past courses

Besides the courses described above, in the past I have also tought the following:

  • Aerospace Propulsion: Third year, first semester BSc Aerospace Engineering (UC3M). 6 ECTS. In English.
  • Mathematics I: First year, first semester BSc Aerospace Engineering (UPM). 9 ECTS. In Spanish.
    You can still download a small Matlab program that I created to visualize conics and quadrics for one unit of the course.
  • Computer Programming: First year BSc Aerospace Engineering (UPM). 6 ECTS. In Spanish.
    You can still download the class slides .
  • Introduction to LATEX and LYX: a 2-hour crash-course on how to typeset beautiful documents in LATEX and use the LYX editor. Editions: 2014, 2015.
  • Introduction to Fortran: a 4-hour crash-course on Fortran programming (in Spanish). Editions: 2011

Contact

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
Avenida de la Universidad 30
28911 Leganés (Madrid) Spain
Office: 7.1.H.14. View map
+34 91 624 8237
mario.merino@uc3m.es
@mmerinomartinez
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