This simple solution will make your plasma drives even better

Plasma engine, also known as magneto-plasma engine, is a type of jet engine in which the working material is plasma with a high degree of ionization. Thanks to its electromagnetic acceleration, it is possible to obtain powerful thrust – much more than in the case of conventional engines that consume the same fuel. These engines are used in rockets and space probes.

However, plasma engines are not perfect A team of scientists from Tohoku University He came up with an idea of ​​how to improve it. Details are described in the journal Scientific reports.

Plasma drives are better

At the heart of the plasma thrusters are magnetic nozzles that direct and accelerate the plasma to generate thrust. Engineers have long been observing the phenomenon of the so-called. Plasma separation, which further hinders the development of this technique.

Read also: Molecular motors under the microscope. The first such comprehensive study in the world

The magnetic field lines always form closed loops, so it is the kinetic structure that influences the plasma flow. The ions easily “break away” from the magnetic nozzle, but the (low-mass) electrons are firmly bound to the field lines, creating a “braking” electric field. On the one hand, the ions want to “get out” outside the magnetic field lines, and on the other hand, the electrons are pulling them back. This creates zero net payment.

Scheme of electron transport in a plasma/photo engine. Tohoku University

After analyzing detailed data from plasma density signals and electric field fluctuations, the Japanese scientists discovered that spontaneously excited waves cause magnetized electrons to move toward the magnetic nozzle’s main axis, neutralizing the separated ions. Intrinsic electron transfer was actually beneficial for the separation, which helped reduce the spacing of the expanding plasma beam. This means that electrons can be captured, thus increasing momentum.

Our finding is a rare case where plasma instability has a beneficial effect on geometry. These results open new perspectives on the role of instability in plasmas and will aid in the development of radiofrequency magnetic plasma propulsion craters.
the professor. Kazunori Takahashi from the Department of Electrical Engineering at Tohoku University and lead author of the study

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