Our new blackprint poster is about the Sci-Fi Ion Thruster from the Sparks of the Future DLC of Space Engineers. It can be used in Vacuum but not in the atmosphere due the presence of ions outside the engine.
In this article you’ll be reading about the ion engine in general and how it works.
How they work
It’s actually pretty weird and totally sounds like science fiction. Instead of hot gases used in chemical engines, Ion thrusters eject ions. These are atoms or molecules which have an electrical charge because they lost or gained electrons. In the case of an ion thruster, they’re emitting positively charged ions which have lost an electron.
Once you’ve got Ions, you can direct them with a magnetic field, accelerating them into space at termendous speed. But where do these ions come from?
They are created by generating plasma inside the spacecraft. They bombard neutral propellant atoms of some gas (mostly Xenon) with electrons. These collisions release even more electrons from the propellant turning them into positively charged ions .This plasma soup of electrons and positively charged ions has an overall neutral charge.
The electrons are held in the chamber, leading to more ionizing events, while the positive ions are siphoned out through a grid at the end of the chamber. As they pass through this grid, high voltage accelerates them out of the back of the spacecraft at speeds of up to 90 km/s. For each ionized particle that the spacecraft can kick out, it gets a tiny kick in return.