Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Tesla coil thruster?

  1. Feb 22, 2014 #1
    This may well be a very silly bordering on sci-fi question, but I was just thinking about this.

    Tesla coils can shoot off some truly huge bolts of lightning. My understanding is that this is due to the charge in the secondary coil being "shaken" back and forth like water being sloshed around in a bathtub with the ground being the water (or in this case, electron) source.

    So I was just thinking, would it be possible to somehow use those electrons being forced out of the secondary as some kind of thruster on a spacecraft?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 22, 2014 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Maybe. But it would be extremely inefficient. Ion thrusters use similar principles except they eject ionized gas out the nozzle. Since electrons are extremely light compared to nuclei, you get a much greater amount of thrust by using ionized gas instead of just electrons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_thruster

    There's also the problem that over time your tesla coil thruster would become highly positively charged since you are ejecting negatively charged electrons.
  4. Feb 22, 2014 #3
    Yea, I was just toying with the idea. I know that the electron is far lighter than a Xenon nucleus, but I was thinking that since one could simply use a solar panel as a ground you could have a constant supply of electrons rather than having a limited supply of gas. So maybe it's worth thinking about using a coil or just a plain electron gun on some hypothetical mission where maximum longevity is more important than power.

    But ultimately I was just wondering if it could work in theory :P
  5. Feb 22, 2014 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    A solar panel does not have an infinite amount of electrons. It would become charged too.
  6. Feb 22, 2014 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Thread closed for Moderation...
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Threads - Tesla coil thruster Date
I How bright will Musk's Tesla car be in the sky? Feb 6, 2018