Solar – Electric Ion Engines Designed with Simple to Advanced Molecular Nanotechnology Requirements

Tom McKendree has written many major papers on the performance improvements that can be achieved by applying molecular nanotechnology to space systems.

Tom McKendree is now working at Raytheon and has an updated analysis of solar electric ion engines using different levels of molecular nanotechnology (none, simple, complex and advanced)

Technology Levels

No MNT
— Current Technology

Simple MNT
— Any Stable Simple Pattern of Atoms

Complex MNT
— Any Molecular Machinery, Except Molecular Manufacturing in the Field

Most Advanced MNT
— Any Molecular Machinery
– Molecular Manufacturing in the Field Enables Bootstrapping,Self-Repair, and Very Low Manufacturing Costs

Solar – Electric Ion Engines Using Molecular Nanotechnology (20 pages)

Just using the materials possible with molecular nanotechnology it is possible to get up to 0.08% of lightspeed with 15% of one gravity acceleration using only solar powered ion drives.

Specific Power Feasible with MNT-Based Solar Panels

The key to high – performance from ion – engines is to have very high specific power. GaInP/GaAs tandem solar cells can achieve ~25% efficiency in vacuum at one solar constant of light, with an active thickness of ~5 μm. GaAs has a density of 5317.6 kg/m3, yielding a specific power of ~13 kWe /kg at 1 AU, if only the active thickness of the solar cell is provided. With a safety factor for overhead, ~10 kWe/kg should be achievable with Simple MNT, given the ability to build simple structures to atomic precision, and thus provide a thin sheet composed almost entire of the active layer.

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