Future Earth

ion engine

Ion Engine – Future Propulsion

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Innovative new ion engine could support long distance space travel without the need for contemporary fuel! WOW!

In theory this certainly is an awesome feat. The reality is that there is still much testing an research to be done, but at the end of the day, innovations such as this may well be a significant step to not only being able to explore our solar system (to start with), but no doubt help instil an better understanding of the value and significance of our tiny blue planet.Ion Engine

A University of Sydney researcher claims to have created the world’s most efficient ion engine. This engine has smashed NASA’s equivalent out of the part in terms of  performance.

Dr Patrick Neumann from Neumann Space created the engine as part of his Ph.D thesis.

So what is an ion engine then? Basically it is a low-thrust propulsion systems with a long runtime, which makes them ideal for spacecraft flight. The engines generate thrust by ionizing a propellant gas and then accelerating that gas through the engine using an electrostatic or electromagnetic field.

There are numerous ion engines which have been developed that use different ionizing materials and different propulsion systems.

In Dr Neumann’s system, he uses a solid propellant and an electrical arc to vaporize the propellant into a cloud of ions, electrons and neutral vapor. This mixture is accelerated through an anode ring and then focused using a magnetic field.

This combination pushes this gas mixture out in a contiguous pattern of short and light bursts.

ion engine

This engine has several advantages that set it apart from competing ion drives.

This engine uses a  propulsion system which  is simple in design, making it easy to both operate and repair. It can also be powered by several different commonly-found metallic substrates, with the best so far being magnesium. NASA’s drive on the other hand requires the gas Xenon to run.

THE DRIVE STILL WORKED IN A VACUUM

Should the drive pan out one day, the belief is that it would dramatically reduce the weight of what it takes to launch a vehicle  into space. It could also prevent a body like the International Space Station from having to continually receive boosts from visiting vehicles, and it could also be used for space travel, be it to the moon or something much farther out.

There are a number of different engines in the works all predominantly looking at fuel free solutions to space travel, such as  NASA’s esteemed HiPEP engine, to name one. There is bound to be a leap in propulsion technology in the not too distant future, space being the first application and then hopefully will see its way into the  domestic area. An exciting area to keep a watch on!
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