Plasma Channel Ion Thrust suggestions and ideas

Plasma Channel: Designing A Next-Gen Ionic Thruster! (For Flight) at

The stagnation pressure is (1/2) * AirDensity*Velocity^2. And the power goes as the cube of the velocity. So using velocity increments is not exactly the best measure. At least get yourself a spreadsheet or HTML/Javascript and have it keep track of the velocity, squared velocity, voltage, air temperature, air pressure. So you can talk to investors when you build one.

Read a little about “fluctuation”, “vortices”, “Reynolds number” Your ions will interact more with turbulent air. Your dry ice was a good idea. You might want to look at “laser ionization of air” and “nuclear ionization of air” and perhaps keep sparks as detectors. Put a small camera on a spark at low current, in the dark, so you can use the data from the images for measurements. A “hot wire” anemometer might be a good thing to learn. A current enough to heat a tiny wire above ambient, the flow rate cools the wire. The current changes to keep the current constant are related to temperature and heat flow.

You have almost ZERO sharp points, and the electric field is part of the acceleration of the ions in air. I think the ambient electron density is on the order of 10^10 electrons/meter^3. But you might want to keep an eye on the humidity. A moist day might be hard to make sparks or strong fields. You should know that. I am just trying to write notes from 55 years of picking up odds and ends.

Look more closely at “electron affinity”. The cost to ionize is high. But adding electrons and then accelerating the negative ions cost less energy. Decades ago there was nothing on electron affinity.

You are NOT PULSING your fields, and you did not mention frequency control of the high voltage.

Can probably stick a three axis accelerometer on a rod and correlate the acceleration in 3D to the forces. If you decide to use microsecond pulses, you can run your whole system at much higher power levels in burst. Pay attention to the second and third time derivatives of things. When you have a steady flow there is less force. But stir it, spark it, push it, make shock waves then you have something to work with. But measure, don’t guess.

Since you are trying to move air, you might want to take a small stream of air and pass it through a tube with many fine needles all pointing in the foreward direction. A set of high power thusters might be better that big soft air flows.

Study magnetic induction and the force of pulsed current flows, particularly where there is high Amperes/Second. That is an accelerating charge flow (Coulombs/Second^2). You might find it much easier to build an acoustic drive.

The power modules for drones are high current but also high Amperes/second. A shock from a spark will move air and the amount is probably easier to quantify and control. Movement of air is just like movement of electric current through a circuit. The “capacitance” and “inductance” “reactance” and “impedance” are all well used. You can take the FFT of sounds and the FFT of current flows and the FFT of air flows. A “tuned flow” is one way to solve the equations of motion as differential equations using FFT methods.

The oxygen in air is paramagnetic. A strong magnetic gradient will cause a force. A high electric field at a point might be a good place to add very strong tiny magnetic nanowires. Do it in the computer and it is a lot less expensive than building things and trying to guess at measurements. And if you talk to investors with an open model they can see and have others test, you have a better chance to ask for crowd funding and cloud funding.

If you replace your solid wires with sharp needle pairs, you can maintain a discharge across each one, if you have separate current and voltage controls on each. A real field generator, you will use whole sets of these to pulse the vehicle as a whole in exactly the right way. IF you jiggle in a swing, it will not swing, you have to match the rhythm of the swing. The modulation of forces used has to match the structural resonance of the vehicle, and the acoustic properties of the air flow.

Wrting this out, I think you would be batter off to spend some time making acoustic levitation tools to pump air. Doing it with sparks and hidden ionization channels especially most of the action is going to be faster than your eye or camera (but not faster than an oscilloscope (USB) which is just some amplifiers, ADCs and computer memory and storage.

You might want to look at using arrays of discharges, measure flow, and find the “sweet spot” by FFT of the flow and the current driving the needle discharges. I think you used a hack saw blade. See if you can find someone to grow whiskers on a sharp blade. Some basic nano materials development might be something groups would help you with. If you make the models open, and create an “open worksite” you might get groups from all over the world to collaboration on ONE model that everyone can see and test and work with. Share the raw data and visualizations.

Richard Collins, The Internet Foundation

Richard K Collins

About: Richard K Collins

Director, The Internet Foundation Studying formation and optimized collaboration of global communities. Applying the Internet to solve global problems and build sustainable communities. Internet policies, standards and best practices.

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