Researchers improve the efficiency of electrodeless plasma engines

A researcher from Tohoku University, who in Japan perfected an electric motor in which the acceleration of the working fluid occurs through radio emission. Now its efficiency is 30%.

Plasma engine. Source:

Plasma engines and their imperfection

Jet engines, in which an impulse is created not due to the energy of chemical reactions, but under the influence of electric current and magnetic fields, have long been an integral part of unmanned spacecraft. An example is the engines in the Hall orbit, which are used to correct the orbit of satellites.

Electric engines are not particularly powerful, they are able to use the working fluid extremely economically. The source of energy for them is usually solar panels, which turn the radiation of our luminary into an electric current.

However, most plasma engines have a serious flaw. A magnetic field accelerating the ions is created between the electrodes. But even ions of inert gases in conditions of heating up to thousands of degrees can cause their corrosion.

This is a disadvantage of electrodeless plasma motors, but until now their efficiency could not be compared with having parts that are in contact with the working fluid.

New helicon antenna

Professor Kazunori Takahashi from Tohoku University in Japan announced that he was able to increase the efficiency of electrodeless plasma engines. He worked with that type of them, which is called helicon.

In engines of this type, the transformation of an inert gas into plasma occurs under the action of radio waves coming from an antenna of a special design called a helicon. Previously, the efficiency of this type of engine has never exceeded 20 percent.

Takahashi was able to increase the efficiency of plasma engines to 30 percent. This may seem like a minor achievement, but in fact, few engines can show a much higher result. 

In addition, in combination with a significantly longer service life compared to electrode plasma motors, Takahashi’s invention can really have a serious impact on the development of space technologies.

According to

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