Nano-Particle Field Extraction Thruster

A NanoFET - a nano-particle field extraction thruster uses nanoparticles as propellant. The "engine" is etched onto wafer-thin silicon; with fuel, it is about one centimeter thick. Tens of thousands of accelerators fit onto the area of a postage stamp. NanoFETs work like miniaturized versions of particle accelerators.

NanoFET is essentially a "stick-on" thruster that could power small spacecraft or devices over large distances for long space missions.


(NanoFET)

NanoFET systems can deliver up to ten times the thrust of an ion engine; they offer high efficiency, lower thruster specific mass and longer operational lifetimes. Since the nanoparticles are charged electrostatically rather than ionized as in ion or Hall thrusters, greater reliability and efficiency can be achieved. Without the need to ionize propellant, nanoFET does not experience charge exchange (CEX) collisions between high energy charged and slow moving neutral particles.

NanoFETs offer a wide span of thrust-to-power ratios at very high efficiency in a single package. This provides mission designers with a great deal of flexibility.

Once within the planetary body’s gravity well, nanoFET could switch to a low-Isp, high thrust-to-power mode to provide greater thrust capability. This flexibility also provides a wider margin for both robotic and crewed missions to accommodate offnominal and abort scenarios, adjust the flight time, and perform dynamic retasking to take advantage of in-flight opportunities. To achieve comparable capabilities with other EP systems across the entire Isp range, multiple engine types would have to be used, which tends to increase the mass of the propulsion system while complicating spacecraft integration and design

From the conceptual standpoint, NanoFETs are miniaturized versions of sf writer Murray Leinster's pushpots, small rocket motors that could be attached to objects and push them into space. Bigger object? Attach more pushpots.

They seemed to land by hundreds, but their number was actually in dozens. It was not until the last one was down that Joe could make himself heard. The pushpots were jet motors in frames and metal skin, with built-in jato rocket tubes besides their engines. On the ground they were quite helpless. In the air they were unbelievably clumsy. They were actually balanced and steered by vanes in the blasts of their jets, and they combined the absolute maximum of sheer thrust with the irreducible minimum of flyability.

... A gigantic crane-truck came in through the wide doorway. It dangled a pushpot. It rolled over to the launching cage in which the spaceship lay and set the unwieldy metal object against that cage. There was a clank as the pushpot caught hold of the magnetic grapples. The crane went out again, passing a second crane carrying a second pushpot. The second beetle-like thing was presented to the cage. It stuck fast. The crane went out for more. (Read more about pushpots)

Read more at Next Big Future.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/10/2009)

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