Physics, Science

Asymmetrical Capacitors for Propulsion

Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted. | Glenn Research Center

Authors: Francis X. Canning; Cory Melcher; Edwin Winet

Asymmetrical Capacitor Thrusters have been proposed as a source of propulsion. For over eighty years, it has been known that a thrust results when a high voltage is placed across an asymmetrical capacitor, when that voltage causes a leakage current to flow. However, there is surprisingly little experimental or theoretical data explaining this effect. This paper reports on the results of tests of several Asymmetrical Capacitor Thrusters (ACTs). The thrust they produce has been measured for various voltages, polarities, and ground configurations and their radiation in the VHF range has been recorded. These tests were performed at atmospheric pressure and at various reduced pressures. A simple model for the thrust was developed. The model assumed the thrust was due to electrostatic forces on the leakage current flowing across the capacitor. It was further assumed that this current involves charged ions which undergo multiple collisions with air. These collisions transfer momentum. All of the measured data was consistent with this model. Many configurations were tested, and the results suggest general design principles for ACTs to be used for a variety of purposes.

Army Research Laboratory

Cornell University

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *