Space Ion Thruster Research
at the Plasma Engineering Research Lab

An ion thruster is a device that utilizes electrical power to ionize and accelerate a propellant, thereby producing thrust for space-propulsion applications. Although the thrust levels are low, the ion thruster has a very high specific impulse and thus is ideal for deep space and satellite station-keeping missions.

Current research includes:

- The development of an ion thruster that utilizes C60 (fullerene) ions as the propellant.

- Understanding life-limiting erosion phenomena on thruster components such as ion extraction grids and hollow cathodes.

For more information about the thruster work that has been done at this lab check out the following references

The picture below shows an accelerator grid and its erosion pattern.