Rockets burn for mere minutes. This engine runs for years, sending probes to Neptune at 10,000 miles an hour
By Michael Moyer
Posted 03.15.2006 at 3:00 am 1 Comment
NASA's Ion Engine
1. Charge the Fuel
Xenon is an inert gas, seemingly useless for rocketry. Before it´s used as fuel, the engine must convert it into an electrically charged gas, also called a plasma. An electron emitter fires electrons at the xenon gas. When an electron hits a xenon atom, it strips off an additional electron from the atom´s shell to create a positively charged xenon ion.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.