New Ion Drive has 153% more fuel efficiency than the previous record ion drive built by NASA
University of Sydney doctoral candidate in Physics, Paddy Neumann, has developed a new kind of ion space drive that has 153% more fuel efficiency than the previous record ion drive built by NASA. The current record, held by NASA’s HiPEP system, allows 9600 (+/- 200) seconds of specific impulse.
However, results recorded by the Neumann Drive have been as high as 14,690 (+/- 2000), with even conservative results performing well above NASA’s best. That suggests the drive is using fuel far more efficiently, allowing for it to operate for longer. Furthermore NASA’s HiPEP runs on Xenon gas, while the Neumann Drive can be powered on a number of different metals, the most efficient tested so far being magnesium.
The drive works through a reaction between electricity and metal, where electric arcs strike the chosen fuel (in this case, magnesium) and cause ions to spray, which are then focused by a magnetic nozzle to produce thrust. Unlike current industry standard chemical propulsion devices, which operate through short, high-powered bursts of thrust and then coasting, Neumann’s drive runs on a continuous rhythm of short and light bursts, preserving the fuel source but requiring long-term missions.
The drive, which allegedly outperforms NASA’s HiPEP in fuel efficiency, but not acceleration, could potentially function as the packhorse of space travel, allowing for the transportation of cargo over long distances. Most interestingly, as it runs on metals commonly found in space junk, it could potentially be fuelled by recycling exhausted satellites, repurposing them into fresh fuel.