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posted by mrpg on Tuesday August 22 2017, @02:02AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the h-times-π-r² dept.

Researchers have improved the design of Cylindrical shaped Hall thrusters (CHTs), a type of ion drive used in spacecraft:

Researchers from the Harbin Institute of Technology in China have created a new inlet design for Cylindrical shaped Hall thrusters (CHTs) that may significantly increase the thrust and allows spaceships to travel greater distances.

[...] The researchers injected the propellant into the cylindrical chamber of the thruster by a number of nozzles that usually point straight in, toward the center of the cylinder. The angle of the inlet nozzles changed slightly, sending the propellant into a rapid circular motion and creating a vortex in the channel.

They then simulated the motion of the plasma in the channel for both nozzle angles using modeling and analysis software called COMSOL that uses a finite element approach to modeling molecular flow.

This resulted in a gas density near the periphery of the channel is higher when the nozzles are tilted and the thruster is run in vortex mode.

According to the study, the vortex inlet increases the propellant utilization of the thruster by 3.12 percent to 8.81 percent, thrust by 1.1 percent to 53.5 percent, specific impulse by 1.1 percent to 53.5 percent, thrust-to-power ratio by 10 percent to 63 percent and anode efficiency by 1.6 percent to 7.3 percent, greatly improving the thruster performance.

More likely to be deployed than EmDrive.

Effect of vortex inlet mode on low-power cylindrical Hall thruster (open, DOI: 10.1063/1.4986007) (DX)

Original Submission

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X3 Hall Thruster Beats Power Output and Thrust Records 22 comments

A Hall-effect thruster designed by University of Michigan researchers, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force has achieved a maximum thrust of 5.4 Newtons. The "X3" thruster uses three channels of plasma instead of a single channel like most Hall thrusters. It is designed to operate at 200 kW but has been tested at a range of 5 kW to 102 kW so far:

A thruster that's being developed for a future NASA mission to Mars broke several records during recent tests, suggesting that the technology is on track to take humans to the Red Planet within the next 20 years, project team members said.

The X3 thruster, which was designed by researchers at the University of Michigan in cooperation with NASA and the U.S. Air Force, is a Hall thruster — a system that propels spacecraft by accelerating a stream of electrically charged atoms, known as ions. In the recent demonstration conducted at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio, the X3 broke records for the maximum power output, thrust and operating current achieved by a Hall thruster to date, according to the research team at the University of Michigan and representatives from NASA.

"We have shown that X3 can operate at over 100 kW of power," said Alec Gallimore, who is leading the project, in an interview with "It operated at a huge range of power from 5 kW to 102 kW, with electrical current of up to 260 amperes. It generated 5.4 Newtons of thrust, which is the highest level of thrust achieved by any plasma thruster to date," added Gallimore, who is dean of engineering at the University of Michigan. The previous record was 3.3 Newtons, according to the school.

A manned Mars mission could require a thruster capable of operating at 500 kW-1 MW, if not more.

Previously: Researchers Improve the Design of Cylindrical Shaped Hall Thrusters

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22 2017, @03:29AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22 2017, @03:29AM (#557370)

    Cylindrical Shaped Hall Thruster. "Fucking machine" is easier to type. Why does each industry need its own lingo?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22 2017, @05:41AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22 2017, @05:41AM (#557400)

    Whatever happened to EM-Drive tests? I thought China was going to test it in space around January. Must have been a bust. Bummer, no Orion women visits.

    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday August 22 2017, @07:09AM

      by FatPhil (863) <> on Tuesday August 22 2017, @07:09AM (#557420) Homepage
      Projects never die when there's still the chance of (a) more papers (such as the above, it's all theoretical, not real-world); and (b) more funding (because taxpayers have limitless money, and don't care about the infrastructure necessary for a modern society).
      Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday August 22 2017, @04:20PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday August 22 2017, @04:20PM (#557552)

      What makes you so sure the Chinese would share the information if it proved successful? The international space race is heating up again, and the EM Drive would give a massive advantage to whoever first perfected it. If by some miracle of a benevolent universe they conclusively proved that it worked, the government might declare it a state secret until such time as they had perfected it to the point that they were ready to colonize Mars, Europa, or wherever.

      Not that such a plan would necessarily work, even if the EM drive did, but why share an advantage with your opponent?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22 2017, @12:20PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22 2017, @12:20PM (#557468)

    whoever is selling the propellant isn't going to like this ... getting to sell less propellant, that is.
    hopefully this plasma-vortex won't lead to a spinning engine ...

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22 2017, @05:13PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22 2017, @05:13PM (#557583)

      Somehow I doubt they'll lose sleep over this, ion drives aren't exactly a massive market. Whatever propellant they use likely has other market values that are much more significant.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday August 22 2017, @02:15PM

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 22 2017, @02:15PM (#557512) Homepage Journal

    "simulated the motion of the plasma in the channel for both nozzle angles using modeling and analysis software"

    Models are all well and good - but Grandma said that the proof is in the pudding. Build one, and show us what it can do. That model flying around in your computer simulator isn't doing anyone any good, except paper writing people.

    There is a supply side shortage of pronouns. You will take whatever you are offered.