Benjamin Jorns

Associate Professor


3037 François-Xavier Bagnoud Aerospace Building
1320 Beal Avenue Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2140

Primary Website


B.S. Physics, Yale University, 2007
M.A. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University, 2009
Ph.D. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University, 2012
Society Memberships

Research Interests

Electric propulsion systems; high-power Hall thrusters; turbulence and nonlinear process in low temperature plasmas; optically-based plasma diagnostics;  coherent, low-frequency plasma structures; magnetic detachment; micropropulsion; breakthrough forms of space propulsion.

Professional Service


Dr. Benjamin Jorns is an associate professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan where he co-directs the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory.  Founded in 1992, this lab is one of the largest and oldest in the country dedicated to in-space propulsion research.  Dr. Jorns received his B.S. in Physics from Yale (2007) and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Princeton (2012). Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Michigan (2017), Dr. Jorns was a member of the electric propulsion group at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California from 2012-2016 where his work combined experimental and analytical techniques to investigate propulsion systems for the next generation of NASA robotic missions. Dr. Jorns also held a lecturer appointment in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department at UCLA from 2013-2015. His primary research interests include wear mechanisms and stability in electric propulsion systems, turbulence and nonlinear processes in low temperature plasmas, developing new plasma diagnostics, and investigating breakthrough forms of in-space propulsion.  

Dr. Jorns has made several technical contributions to the fields of low temperature plasmas and in-space propulsion in his career.  He pioneered the use of data-driven methods to develop new models and optimization techniques for electric propulsion systems, and he has combined these methods with experiment and theory to lead to new insights into the stability of Hall thrusters and hollow cathodes. These findings subsequently have been incorporated into on-going research efforts and models at NASA, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and several universities and institutions around the world.   Most recently, Dr. Jorns has been exploring  expanding the capability of envelope of existing thruster technologies as well as next-generation concepts to meet the growing accessibility of power in space. Dr. Jorns has worked closely with both industry and government in the testing and development of electric propulsion systems for in-space applications.  Key partners include the Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA, Department of Energy, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, L3 Harris, and Aerojet Rocketdyne.  Relatedly, he was recently named co-director (2021)  of the Joint Advanced Propulsion Institute (JANUS), a 5-year strategic technology research institute supported by NASA to investigate testing of high power electric propulsion systems.

Dr. Jorns has published over 150 journal articles and conference proceedings in the field, and he has been recognized six times with the “Best Paper” work in electric propulsion from AIAA.   He is an associate fellow of the AIAA and member of the IEEE, APS, and Electric Rocket Propulsion Society.  He is also the recipient of the AFOSR Young Investigator Program award, the DOE Early Career Award, the AIAA Sperry Award, and seven NASA technical achievement awards.  Dr. Jorns recently was the invited chief guest editor of a special issue on the Physics of Electric Propulsion from the Journal of Applied Physics and is currently an associate editor for the Journal of Electric Propulsion.   He has held several leadership roles for the AIAA’s Electric Propulsion Technical Committee including serving most recently as a Technical Discipline Chair for the AIAA SciTech.  In addition to his technical contributions, Dr. Jorns is engaged in outreach activities intended to raise the profile of his field.  He is the faculty advisor for the University of Michigan’s AIAA student branch, and he oversees an outreach group that builds and presents benchtop experiments related to low temperature plasmas to K-8 students.


Related News Stories

Benjamin Jorns Receives DURIP Award for Propulsion Research

Michigan Aerospace Professor Secures Defense Grant for New Equipment to Support Testing of Alternative Propellants for Next-generation in-space propulsion systems.

2023 AIAA Best Paper in Electric Propulsion Award

Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory receives sixth AIAA best paper award in the past seven years

Saturn V Rocket Engine

NASA Joint Advanced Propulsion Institute (JANUS) Annual Review Held at the University of Michigan

JANUS co-director and Michigan Aerospace Associate professor, Benjamin Jorns, hosts second annual review meeting at Palmer Commons

Plasma thrusters used on satellites could be much more powerful

It was believed that running more propellant through a Hall thruster would wreck its efficiency, but new experiments suggest they might power a crewed mission to Mars.

device in aerospace lab

University of Michigan’s Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory share 2022 AIAA Electric Propulsion Best Paper Award

The lab has won this award five times in the last six years