Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Engineers Create Miniature Plasma Source for Thrusters

Boise State University engineering researchers have developed and tested a miniature plasma source for a micro-propulsion system that could help move small satellites and enable them to maintain a position while in orbit.

The Boise State engineers have created a miniature inductively coupled plasma source that could be used for ion thrusters where the propulsive force is generated by electricity rather than combustion.

In physics and chemistry, plasma is a state of matter similar to gas where a portion of the particles are ionized. The new system is a result of research on electric propulsion in low-temperature, co-fired ceramic (LTCC) materials. The engineers designed and tested a system that provides high density plasma by using the gas argon as a propellant and injecting it into a thrust chamber to move small objects like a satellite.

“Overall, electric thrusters are more efficient in propellant usage and that allows the devices to operate for longer periods of time without the need to refuel,” said study coauthor Don Plumlee, assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering. “A plasma thruster provides more thrust for the mass of propellant being ejected compared to traditional chemical thrusters and it provides more efficient performance at the small thruster sizes we are targeting.”

The miniature plasma source was created out of a material that allows the integration of additional thruster elements, including propellant delivery into a single device. The concept is based on the miniaturization of an electric thruster, using ceramic materials to integrate fluidics and electronics. The researchers then tested the system over different frequencies and argon pressures. The system performed well at frequencies from 400 MHz to 1000 MHz and a resonant frequency near 920 MHz.

“Our inductively coupled plasma source also is embedded inside the ceramic substrate, which protects it from back-bombardment of the plasma ions that could potentially erode the antenna,” said study coauthor Jim Browning, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science. “These devices are really the first step in developing a smaller electrostatic thruster in ceramic materials.”

The design and testing of the plasma source is outlined in a paper that appears online in the journal IEEE Transactions in Plasma Science.

Learn More About Research at Boise State University
An emerging metropolitan research university of distinction, Boise State University has launched a new website – – to showcase the research expertise and innovative spirit at the university. Known for its unique blue turf and nationally ranked football program, Boise State is demonstrating its creativity beyond the blue in an ongoing series of faculty podcasts where faculty experts provide insight into today’s issues, challenges and topics of interest.

Matt Pene | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht 'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region
16.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Fraunhofer HHI have developed a novel single-polarization Kramers-Kronig receiver scheme
16.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut, HHI

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>