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Can some one explain this physics on how it works?


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From what I understand when the ionocraft or ion lifter is turned on, the corona wire becomes charged with high voltage. When the corona wire reaches approximately 30 kV, it causes the air molecules nearby to become ionised by stripping their electrons from them. As this happens, the ions are repelled from the anode and attracted towards the collector, causing the majority of the ions to accelerate toward the collector. 

The current is carried by a corona discharge (and not a tightly-confined arc) means that the moving particles diffuse into an expanding ion cloud, and collide frequently with neutral air molecules. It is these collisions that create thrust.

My question are there different types of ionocraft that operate similar like this one? And is power a big problem the reason this cannot be scaled up? I’m thinking aircraft big like a airplane would need gigawatts of power.

But it is very simple anyone can buy parts in store and make model Ion-propelled craft in their home.



Also keep mind the power source is on the ground not the craft.  And to scale this up may need gigawatts of power. May be reason companies like Boeing or Lockheed so on are not building a craft like this.

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There are some other similar ion lifters and some that are really big like 10 feet by 10 feet. 😨

But I guess thrust is too low for it to be any use?

If I remember there was an article on some research into this in the past. But most of those youtube videos on ion lifters have power cable hooked up to this.

I have not seen youtube video of this ion lifter having its own power source on it they have a power cable hooked up to it like lot of those videos. 

So not sure but power may be problem?

Edited by nec209
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From what I've read the power requirement is tens of watts (i.e. several milliamps at tens of kV) for the basic lifter, which isn't very massive, but you need to lift a payload to carry the power supply.

This paper mentions a lift of less than 5N/m^2, and a maximum efficiency of ~70 N/kW (and they mention getting higher geometrical lift at the expense of a lower electrical efficiency)


So it's quite likely that nobody has built a lifter that can lift its own power supply for any appreciable length of time. You can characterize this as insufficient power being the problem, or as insufficient thrust being the problem.






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1 hour ago, Country Boy said:

I am not sure why you say that collisions "create thrust".

Such an engine or even a standard rocket creates thrust even in empty space where there are no air molecules to "collide" with.

An ion lifter as described doesn't work in outer space; you need to ionize air molecules for them to work. But you are correct, it wouldn't be collisions that create the thrust, but the reaction from the motion of the ions you have created.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I wad thinking about Ion lifters today as those youtube videos show it only going up like 10 feet in the air with hardly any weight. 

That if a craft was to lift 400 pounds or 1000 pounds the power requirements would be huge. And that probably why NASA and companies stop doing research into it.

Also there is no air in space so it would not work in space.



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  • 3 months later...

There is an ion thruster that lifts its power supply against Earth's gravity.  It is called the Self Contained Ion Powered (propelled) Aircraft or Ion Propelled Vehicle, US Patent 10,119,527.  There are over 30 videos of it in flight online.  It was verified to lift its power supply by the host of NPR and plenty of others.  The website for it is at URL deleted  It can fly for nearly 2 minutes at a time so far.  It has some design changes over previous ionocrafts (and lifters), that make it operate on much less power.  It is also very lightweight and has a specialized power supply.

The craft flies by adding electrons to O2 molecules, thereby producing negative ions.  This is contrary to some popular diagrams of the process.  Oxygen has a high affinity for electrons, that is why it is called an oxidizer.   "Corona," is mostly produced by air molecules when they lose electrons also called de-excitation.  At low energy levels very little nitrogen is energized.  When an EAD craft is designed to primarily add electrons to ambient O2 molecules, it mostly excites them, and therefore produces far less corona.  O2 molecules can hold on to an extra electron for up to minutes at time.  Very little ozone is produced at low wattages and currents.  The less corona that is produced the more efficient these vehicles are, according to my lift measurements and corona camera footage video.

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