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DateDate: 26-11-2018, 05:55

An atmospheric ion engine has been developed that allows the creation of aircraft that have no moving parts.
A group of researchers and engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology managed to do what was considered impossible for quite a long time - to lift and keep an aircraft in the air that does not use any moving parts to create lift. This device, weighing only 2.3 kilograms and having a wingspan of about 5 meters, is very similar to the model of the airframe, to which an unusual design is attached to the bottom. This design is an atmospheric ion engine, creating a silent stream of ionized air, due to which the aircraft is able to fly a distance of 60 meters. And this restriction is not imposed by the capabilities of the ion engine or energy source, the length of the room of the sports center, within which the tests were carried out, has such a length.
The principle used by the experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the ion engine is called electro-aerodynamics, and it was discovered in the 1920s by the famous pilot and designer Alexander Major Se de Seversky. The idea is to create a grid of thin wires or strips of foil, one of the grids serves as a positive, and the second - a negative electrode. The electric potential at these electrodes separates electrons from air molecules, which begin to move towards the negative electrode. Collisions with other neutral air molecules generate a stream of air that is capable of creating a weak thrust force, which, however, can already be measured.
The problem of electrodynamics lies in the fact that devices created on its basis had, until recently, large dimensions, which excluded the possibility of their practical application. Because of this, the range of such devices was small and limited mainly to ionic air cleaning systems.
The breakthrough in the creation of an atmospheric ion engine was made possible by the work of Professor Steven Barrett, who dedicated about this direction to about 9 years. The result of this work was a fairly highly efficient ion engine consisting of conductors of different thickness, which makes it look like some kind of exotic radio antenna. These conductors act as separate electrodes, and the alternation of positive and negative electrodes in a particular sequence and allowed to increase the efficiency of the engine as a whole.
The energy source of the ion engine is a small lithium-polymer rechargeable battery located in the fuselage of the aircraft. A specialized high-voltage electronic system, developed and created by experts of the Power Electronics Research Group, allows to obtain an electrical potential of 40 thousand volts, which is fed to the electrodes of the ion engine.
As you can see, the design of the atmospheric ion engine is very primitive, but this engine allows the aircraft to actually fly rather than plan, constantly sliding downward through the air currents.
“Since the atmospheric ion engine runs exclusively on electricity and does not need fuel, it can be used to ensure the flight of stratospheric aircraft, rising almost to the border with space,” says Professor Barrett, “Besides, such an engine can be a source of additional traction for aircraft using more traditional technologies. "
Researchers recognize that practical aircraft using similar ion engines will not appear very soon. Nevertheless, the efficiency and environmental friendliness of such an engine makes scientists continue to work in this direction. And in the near future, researchers plan to increase efficiency with the help of technologies to increase the area of electrodes, which do not require a significant increase in the size and weight of the engine.