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What Are Electric Plasma Jet Engines?

What is the Plasma Jet Engines ?

A plasma propulsion engine is a type of electric propulsion that generates thrust from a quasi-neutral plasma. This is in contrast with ion thruster engines, which generate thrust through extracting an ion current from the plasma source, which is then accelerated to high velocities using grids/anodes. These exist in many forms (see electric propulsion). However, in the scientific literature, the term “plasma thruster” sometimes encompasses thrusters usually designated as “ion engines”.

Plasma thrusters do not typically use high voltage grids or anodes/cathodes to accelerate the charged particles in the plasma, but rather use currents and potentials that are generated internally to accelerate the ions, resulting in a lower exhaust velocity given the lack of high accelerating voltages.

This type of thruster has a number of advantages. The lack of high voltage grids of anodes removes a possible limiting element as a result of grid ion erosion. The plasma exhaust is ‘quasi-neutral’, which means that positive ions and electrons exist in equal number, which allows simple ion-electron recombination in the exhaust to neutralize the exhaust plume, removing the need for an electron gun (hollow cathode). Such a thruster often generates the source plasma using radio frequency or microwave energy, using an external antenna. This fact, combined with the absence of hollow cathodes (which are sensitive to all but noble gases), allows the possibility of using this thruster on a variety of propellants, from argon to carbon dioxide air mixtures to astronaut urine.

Plasma engines are better suited[vague] for interplanetary missions.

Many space agencies developed plasma propulsion systems, including the European Space Agency, Iranian Space Agency and Australian National University, who co-developed a double layer thruster

Imagine a shiny modern airliner crisscrossing the globe powered exclusively by clean electricity and fresh air. That’s the grand vision of a new generation of jet thrusters making big noise in engineering labs around the world.

But is this technology the solution to runaway climate change and fossil fuel dependency – or just a load of hot air?

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