Electrospray Ion drive scalable to thousands of times the thrust of existing ion drives

Accion Systems uses electrospray ion drive propulsion. The thrust-producing ions are supplied from their ionic liquid propellant — a safe, non-toxic liquid salt. This novel source of ions allows us to avoid the use of large ionization chambers, pressurized tanks, bulky valves, and external cathodes.

Technology is built around a thruster “chip” architecture. Each chip houses hundreds of microscopic emitters that produce beams of ions generated from our novel propellant source: ionic liquid.

They use electric fields to accelerate ions. Ions leave the thruster chips through small holes in the extractor grids over each chip, and propel the spacecraft in the opposite direction.

Benefits

* Smaller, simpler design. No need for an ionization chamber, valves, pipes, external neutralizing cathode, or active pumping or pressurization in Accion’s thrusters.
* Optimized for high thrust-to-power ratio. No external cathode or propellant heaters that draw additional power.
* Conversion efficiency. Up to 60 percent higher than plasma thrusters.
* Reduced lifecycle cost. Due to safety of propellants.
* Rideshare safe. The passive nature of our non-toxic, non-explosive ionic liquid propellant allows our thrusters to comply with all rideshare and launch regulations.
* Wide thermal stability. The thermal stability of ionic liquid ranges from roughly –100 to 400°C.
* Batch manufacturing techniques used to fabricate our thrusters allow for increased reliability and reduced cost.

When they scale up the number of emitters to about one for every square micron, then a square meter system would produce 10,000 newtons of thrust.

Other designs for electrospray ion drives suggested this technology could achieve up to 4000 ISP.

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