Posts Tagged ‘solar sail’

Invention: Plasma-powered flying saucer

May 8, 2008

Invention: Plasma-powered flying saucer
13:10 06 May 2008, NewScientist.com news service, Justin Mullins

Pass a current or magnetic field through a conducting fluid and it will generate a force. Numerous aerospace engineers have tried and failed to exploit this phenomenon, known as magnetohydrodynamics, as an exotic form of propulsion for aircraft. But perhaps attempts so far have all been too big.

A very small design could have a better chance of taking off, says Subrata Roy, an aerospace engineer at University of Florida, Gainesville, US.
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How could I pass this one up? Roy has a patent for a “WINGLESS HOVERING OF MICRO AIR VEHICLE.” The design is a saucer with electrodes all along the bottom. They would ionize the air below the saucer and thus make a plasma that could be used to generate lift. The same (or different?) electrodes would create electric fields that would interact with the plasma to create a force. By cleverly arranging the electrodes on the surface of the saucer, there would be a net upwards force on the saucer, causing it to hover. Presumably you could tweak the electric fields and/or plasmas to steer the craft without having any moving parts. He proposes filling the saucer with helium to decrease the amount of force needed to get it off the ground.

I’m going to let you come up with all sorts of uses for such a device (war drones, autonomous cameras, automatic dog walkers, etc.) and I’m going to recall a previous story where scientists proposed using a plasma bubble to protect astronauts from radiation during a trip to Mars. They could pool these idea and use the plasma shields for propulsion as well. In space, you don’t have to overcome gravity, so the plasma-powered flying saucer could be big enough to carry people (or robots or a fleet of micro-sized saucers). Of course there would be no air to ionize to create the plasma, but in the old post, they came up with a way to keep a plasma around the ship. That means that propulsion would be achieved with electricity as the only fuel source.

And that’s where the solar sails and micro sterling engines come in.

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