Copyright 2016 Robert Clark
Nanotechnology makes possible an "ion drive" for air vehicles analogous to the famous ion drive of NASA's deep space probes:
Department of Mathematics, Widener University, USA
Volume 1 Issue 2 / Received Date: September 26, 2016 / Published Date: October 20, 2016
Peter Thiel of the Founders Fund once famously said, "We wanted flying cars, and we got 140 characters."But nanotechnology now does make possible the long desired flying cars. It's a different propulsion method though than propellers or jets however. It's propulsion by electric fields known as electrohydrodynamic propulsion (EHD). It works by ionizing air then using electric fields to propel the charged air molecules rearward, thus producing thrust. It's quite analogous to the famous space ion drive of NASA. EHD has been known at least since the sixties. Its problem is, as with ion drive, the thrust is so low. So far the EHD craft have not been able to lift both themselves and their power supplies. The ones made so far leave the power supply on the ground and connect to the craft through power cables. But the equations of EHD suggest the thrust for the power required gets larger for thinner ionizing wires. In fact if the wires are at the nanoscale then this important thrust-to-power ratio can be a hundred times higher than for the craft constructed so far. This would be enough to lift the craft and the power supply. This research is to prove what the mathematics suggests. Note that if it works then all propeller and rotor driven craft become obsolete. Also, intermediate range automobile travel would be taken over by the EHD craft, so a large proportion of carbon-emissions would be eliminated, replaced by this zero-emission travel method. In regards to space propulsion, since EHD is so similar to ion drive, using components at the nanoscale may also work to improve the thrust of ion drive. This would be important to shortening the flight times of spacecraft using such drives. This is important not just for robotic spacecraft but also satellites that use such ion drives to reach their final GEO destinations. As it is now, the ion drives used have such low thrust it takes months for such satellites to reach GEO, resulting in millions of dollars of lost revenue to the satellite companies. Being able to increase the thrust of these drives would reduce the flight time, and therefore reduce this lost revenue.
Keywords: Electrohydrodynamic propulsion; Carbon nanotubes; Nanowires; Ionic wind; Ionocraft; Plasma drive