Nanosatellite thruster emits pure ions | MIT News

News Highlights: Nanosatellite thruster emits pure ions | MIT News

A 3D printed thruster delivering a stream of pure ions could provide a cheap, highly efficient propulsion source for miniature satellites.

The nanosatellite thruster created by MIT researchers is the first of its kind to be completely additive fabricated, using a combination of 3D printing and hydrothermal growth of zinc oxide nanowires. It is also the first thruster of its type to produce pure ions from the ionic liquids used to generate propulsion.

The pure ions make the thruster more efficient than comparable state-of-the-art devices, giving it more thrust per unit of propellant flow, says Luis Fernando Velásquez-GarcĂ­a, principal investigator at MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL).

The thrust of the device, which is about the size of a dime, is miniscule. The force can be measured on the scale of a few dozen micronewtons, a thrust approximately equal to half the weight of one of the sesame seeds in a hamburger bun. But in…

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