Need Help Conceiving Science Fair Engineering Project. Can an Ion Thruster be Built?

  • #1
Hello Physics Forums, I am a tenth grade student looking into a possible engineering/science project. I wanted to know if an ion thruster could be built, how hard would it be if at all possible. I could work with the university of Arizona and they might lend me a lab and equipment. (such as vacuum chambers). I know things of this stature have been done before students have made crude fusion reactors and particle accelerators. I know quite a bit about physics (for someone in tenth grade) mostly from school and independent reading. I know this is really out there but I just need guidance because I have a passion for science (astronomy mostly) and science fair is something I use for its creative exploration. But sadly all my projects have not been challenging or creative enough. They have all been good projects but they never were memorable. This year I want something big but not impossible something challenging and creative. I would greatly appreciate your input.
Can I create some type of ion thruster? What about a cyclotron? Some other type of particle accelerator?
If there is anything you have been curious about please tell! I have all year.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
760
69


It's certainly possible. It might be difficult and expensive if you do not have assistance for the vaccum system. If you wanted to do an electrostatic thruster, I think to do it you should have a vaccum chamber with high voltage feedthroughs for providing the acceleration, and feedthrough for some way of measuring the force.
 
  • #3
760
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I should add that high voltages can be dangerous and I do not want to be partially resonsible for getting you killed.

If you decide to do this, having a knowledgeable supervisor might be the right thing to do. Also, if you do decide to do this, maybe you should post updates to an internet forum so more people may monitor your progress and give advice.
 
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  • #4
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The difference between an ion source (needed for thruster) and an ion thruster is that the ion beam in the thruster is a neutral (uncharged) beam. This is a very significant difference. If the thruster emits a charged ion beam, a charge potential builds up on the thruster case, and eventually the charged ion beam stops, turns around, and re-enters the thruster (actually it is space charge limited, but with same result). Not an easy design.

Bob S
 

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