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Flight, without moving parts

  1. Feb 8, 2013 #1
    As a tenth grader with electronics on the mind, ionocraft is probably one of the most interesting topics I have run across(besides the Casimir effect; that, I believe, is quantum physics). But, what I am truly interested in is whether or not it is possible, with the use of technologies such as microchannel plates or electron multipliers, to produce a viable ionocraft that could actually have a practicle use. Do you think this is possible? Give your opinion(of course, with some reasoning).
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2013 #2


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    THP115, Welcome to Physics Forums!

    Have you checked this out? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_thruster

    There you can find many types of practical uses of ion thrusters being used now. If, after you've seen all this, you still have some questions or doubts, then come right back here and ask away!

  4. Feb 9, 2013 #3
    For different conditions, different engines are best suited.

    Ion thruster is good, when there is a mass deficit, having a lot of energy, and big acceleration is not necessary. For example, in the space, at least after getting to an orbit, powering with solar panels or nuclear reactor.

    Commonly used in the earth atmosphere Turbojet is the child of the Ramjet, which has no Turbine at all, but need initial speed to operate:
  5. Feb 9, 2013 #4
    Are ion thrusters mostly worked on by electrical engineers or mechanical engineers?
  6. Feb 18, 2013 #5
    It appears as though the ion thruster maybe an answer so far. Would it be possible to use the Casimir Effect as an effective way to power the ion thruster?
  7. Feb 18, 2013 #6


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    THP115, Yes, there seem to be some theoretical possibilities, but nothing that actually functions...yet. Here are three references:

    "silicon array propulsion for space drives"

    "Mustafa invented a way of tapping this quantum effect via what's known as the dynamic Casimir effect. This uses a "moving mirror" cavity, where two very reflective very flat plates are held close together, and then moved slightly to interact with the quantum particle sea. It's horribly technical, but the end result is that Mustafa's use of shaped silicon plates similar to those used in solar power cells results in a net force being delivered. A force, of course, means a push or a pull and in space this equates to a drive or engine."

    Here’s a patent application: “Method and Device to Generate a Transverse Casimir Force for Propulsion, Guidance and Maneuvering of a Space Vehicle”
  8. Feb 18, 2013 #7

    jim hardy

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    Several years ago I read about an ion thruster engine being built i think at U of Illinois, but am unable to find it again.

    This page might lead someplace, though i don't know enough about the machines. So take it with a grain of salt.


    have fun - I hope you get one working !
  9. Feb 18, 2013 #8


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    I do remember a demonstrator vehicle that accelerated air that had been ionized to provide lift.
    The thing looked somewhat like a flying inner spring mattress, sans the upholstering.
    Power requirements were big, it may have gotten it from an attached cable, but the basic concept is certainly workable. Whether practical is another matter.
  10. Mar 23, 2013 #9
    The high power helicon looks pretty interesting; i wonder if it could be reworked to use primarily electricity.
  11. Mar 23, 2013 #10


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    Reworked to use primarily use electricity? If you read about how it functions you will find it needs electricity plus some "fuel", like argon gas in this case, also to function.

    “Power is required only for the maintenance of plasma and the creation of the magnetic field. In our current bench top prototype, 250W is sufficient to create several milli-Newtons of thrust. In space the solenoids that generate the 250 Gauss of magnetic field this requires we estimate could be cooled to 200K, reducing the resistance in the coils by a factor of 5 and representing a power consumption of a few 10s of Watts. Relative to other existing systems this constitutes quite a power saving and is well with-in the capabilities of solar panels. The 0.5sccm of feed gas represents a mass consumption of 160 mg/hr, so that a typical 5 hour burn would use 0.8g of propellant.”
  12. Jul 3, 2013 #11
    I think I may have produced a plausible idea (still in development); the use of electrical induction to wirelessly transmit electricity outside of a negatively charged container. The process would require the use of magnetism, but could possibly remove the need for plasma. Also could take down the weight of the overall design, by using magnetic fields instead of wires. An ionocraft ring (the wire ionizing the air) could be used to give the "container" a net negative charge, and would repel against the electricity being inducted outside of the container, if the magnetic field was to somehow have a negative charge. Electron multipliers would be used to increase the number of electrons flowing through the system, which would increase the repelling between the two negative entities (the container, and the electrons outside the container). But, I'm not sure about whether the electrons can be moved outside of the container with induction alone...
  13. Jul 4, 2013 #12


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    THP115, I have read and re-read your post describing your idea and still am completely confused. Are you proposing a propulsion system for a vehicle in air? If you look at the previous posts above, all of the examples of existing ion propulsion mechanisms were for spacecraft. They generate thrusts measured in “milli-Newtons”-really a very tiny amount. None could propel a vehicle in the earth’s atmosphere as far as I can imagine. Specifically, here are some phrases you used. Will you please explain them with more details?

    1. “the use of electrical induction to wirelessly transmit electricity outside of a negatively charged container.” Wiki says: “Electromagnetic induction is the production of a potential difference (voltage) across a conductor when it is exposed to a varying magnetic field.” Where is the varying magnetic field coming from? What does “transmit electricity” mean? What is this “electricity”?

    2. “Ionocraft ring (the wire ionizing the air) could be used to give the "container" a net negative charge”. What is an Ionocraft ring? Does your scheme ionize air?

    3. “repel against the electricity being inducted outside of the container,” I would need a diagram or sketch to visualize this, please.

    4. “if the magnetic field was to somehow have a negative charge.” Check your basic physics: Magnetic fields do not have charge.

    5. “Electron multipliers would be used to increase the number of electrons flowing through the system,” Free electrons can be multiplied in photomultiplier tubes, for instance, but only in a vacuum. They will not act this way in air because the gas molecules get in their way.

    6. “increase the repelling between the two negative entities (the container, and the electrons outside the container)” Once more, I would need a sketch of this proposal to understand it, please.

    This is not to discourage you from thinking up innovative new propulsion mechanisms. But it is a reminder that your inventions are bound to obey all the Laws of Physics.
  14. Jul 8, 2013 #13
    I am sorry that my post has caused this confusion. The way that I worded it is proof of the fact that I am still in high school, so I will try to be as clear as possible (the design mentioned is still a W.I.P.- work in progress).

    1a) The varying magnetic field (will most likely use alternating current power supply) mentioned above is caused by an internal electromagnet (within the "negatively- charged container")

    1b) With a high enough voltage, almost anything can be used as an electrical conductor. A result of electricity flowing through most conductors is magnetism. I thought it could be utilized (in addition to the alternating electromagnet) to not only induce a negative charge on the area behind the "negatively-charged container", but also to partially control the flow of the anions. The "negatively-charged container" would be repelled away from the area behind it, producing force and thrust. Even though the negative entities would repel, the force produced (due to lack of control over the release of anions produced) would be limited, and inefficient.

    1c) The electricity will most likely be an external, high-voltage AC current power source. It is easier for me to design objects that use AC than DC power sources, due to the fact that I understand the basic properties of AC current.

    By-the-way, the "negatively-charged container" refers to the body/hull of the object in motion. In this case, I am trying to make it fly (which could turn out being very unlikely, due to the energy required by my design).

    I will try to describe more in detail tomorrow. Once again, sorry. :(
  15. Jul 8, 2013 #14
    Also, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ionocraft#Construction, "A simple ionocraft derivative, also known as a lifter, can be easily constructed by anyone with a minimal amount of technical knowledge. The model in its simplest form has the shape of an equilateral triangle with sides generally between 10 and 30 cm. They consist of three parts, the corona wire (or emitting wire), the air gap (or dielectric fluid), and the foil skirt (collector). The electrical polarities of the emitting and collecting electrodes can be reversed. All of this is usually supported by a lightweight balsawood or other electrically isolating frame so that the corona wire is supported at a fixed distance above the foil skirt, generally at 1 mm per kilovolt. The corona wire and foil should be as close as possible to achieve a saturated corona current condition which results in the highest production of thrust. However the corona wire should not be too close to the foil skirt as it will tend to arc in a spectacular show of tiny lightning bolts which has a twofold effect:
    It degrades the thrust as it is shorting the device and there is current flow through the arc instead of the ions that do the lifting
    It can destroy the power supply or burn the balsa structure of the Lifter."

    The parts I meant to refer to when I said "Ionocraft ring (the wire ionizing the air)" were the emitting wire and the collector.
  16. Jul 8, 2013 #15


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    Thank you for posting the link to the wiki article about ionocraft. Had you posted that earlier it would have simplified member’s responses. And thank you for your detailed explanations.

    Unfortunately, our PF rules don’t allow members to participate in dangerous projects, and, according to the Wiki article:

    “Ionocraft require many safety precautions due to the high voltage required for their operation, and also the risk of premature death from heart or lung disease due to the inhalation of their ionised air product, ozone.”

    “The Biefeld–Brown effect is an electrical effect that produces an ionic wind that transfers its momentum to surrounding neutral particles.” One suggestion: remain careful to separate “mysterious fields that interacted with the Earth's gravitational pull.[4] and “Certain fringe researchers...” from real science.

    Electrohydrodynamics (EHD), which underlies these “ionocraft” and “lifter” projects, is an important branch of physics with plenty of opportunity for new applications and innovations. I sincerely hope you continue your studies and experiments in this area. Please be sure to check up on any wild claims; verify them with your science teacher. Learn the basic physics of EHD...it’s not too complicated at the qualitative level. Most of all, be safe and don’t hurt yourself or others. Respect High Voltage and pay attention to all safety warnings! Good luck. Bobbywhy
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