Man, in his desire to find more efficient and less polluting ways to move, has been developing a series of technologies that try to change the traditional models of driving different types of engines. The ion thruster is one of them and it has been successfully tested in different areas.
This is a concept that opens up a new concept as a method of propulsion. And that’s why today you’re going to learn what is ion propulsion and how this technology is making its way into the aerospace career and the automotive industry.
What is the ion thruster?
ionic propulsion is a propulsion technique that manipulates electrical rather than chemical forces to create thrust by accelerating ions by electricity. Modern ion thrusters use inert gases as propellants, such as xenon, creating positive ions and negative electrons which they call plasma.
Engines that work with ion propulsion are more efficient and can be used continuously for long periods. This has made them special for deep space missions.
The ion propulsion works by harnessing the repulsive forcewhich is usually very strong between two objects with the same electrical charge.
How does an ion thruster work?
The cathode produces a stream of electrons which collide with the neutral xenon atoms. The collisions remove one or more electrons from the xenon atoms. The result is the obtaining from these atoms in ions that are positively charged.
The xenon ions move into a pair of gratings, one positively charged and the other at the rear of the chamber negatively charged. When ions are between the grids, the repulsive force on the positively charged grid acts..
This can produce off-camera accelerations, speeds up to 30 kilometers per second. As the xenon ions are free inside the engine, the other cathode sends electrodes that neutralize them, thus preventing them from going to the engine.
Difference between an ion engine and a conventional one?
The ion engine differs from a chemical engine, both in the place where it obtains the energy and in the way the thrust is produced.
- Chemical engines, which are the ones that they work by burning fuel, combining fuel with an oxidizer. This produces gases that expand and quickly exit the engine exhaust and is what generates thrust.
- Ion engines work differently, they take very small amounts of gas and accelerate it to very high speeds. This makes it use much less fuel.
Cars and ionic technology
The Bugatti Vision Le Mans concept is a concept of a futuristic racing car, which has been developed by Max Lask.. He is a recent graduate student at the Brunswick University of Art in Germany. He is a brilliant designer, who completed his internship at the Bugatti design center.
Lask envisioned for this car, a powertrain that runs on ion propulsion in either the front or the rear, as it already exists in airplanes and spacecraft. The electrodes placed in the front part are the ones that are in charge of making the air molecules lose electrons, obtaining a positive charge, which are attracted by the rear part that has negative electrons.
The movement occurs when the ions travel from one end to the other, pushing the air. Lask believes that this is a technology that will soon reach cars. The French company emphasized that the Vision Le Mans concept created by Lask is a unique project to complete its design program.
The exterior design of this car has the Bugatti horseshoe grill, but with a futuristic interpretation. The front of the car has a pushrod suspension. The only difference is that this is visible on either side of the wraparound windshield.