Technology 3 min read

New Jet Propulsion Prototype Uses Air and Electricity Only

Martin Maun / Shutterstock.com

Martin Maun / Shutterstock.com

A professor from Wuhan University has designed a prototype jet propulsion that generates thrusting pressure using only air and electricity.

The transportation sector in the United States is one of the major consumers of fossil fuel. Along with jet fuel-burning aircraft, internal combustion engines in cars also rely heavily on gasoline and diesel.

Unfortunately, fossil fuel burning is unstable and unsafe. It’s also the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, releasing carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane into the atmosphere.

As you may have guessed, these gases have devastating effects on our planet like global warming. Furthermore, they cause adverse respiratory issues in humans.

That’s why several researchers have focused on generating alternatives to fossil fuel burning in vehicles. Some successful efforts include using electric vehicles and burning hydrogen fuel cells

Now, a team of scientists at the Institue of Technological Science at Wuhan University has provided another viable alternative.

The team demonstrated a prototype device that uses microwave air plasma for jet propulsion. In other words, they created a jet engine that uses air and electricity to work.

In a press release, lead researcher and Wuhan University professor, Jau Tang said:

“The motivation of our work is to help solve the global warming problems owing to humans’ use of fossil fuel combustion engines to power machineries, such as cars and airplanes.”

The researchers described their engine in the journal AIP Advances.

A Jet Propulsion Prototype that Uses Microwave Air Plasma

Plasma is the fourth state of matter — aside from solid, liquid, and gases. It consists of an aggregate of charged ions and exists naturally on the Sun’s surface and in flashes of lightning.

However, it’s also possible to generate plasma, which was what the researchers did. The team compressed air into high pressures and used a microwave to ionize the pressurized air stream. The result was a plasma jet thruster.

We know about other plasma jet thrusters such as NASA‘s Dawn space probe.

However, these previous attempts use xenon plasma, which can’t overcome the friction in Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, it’s not a viable option for powering cars or even air transportation.

Meanwhile, the new jet thruster generates high-temperature and high pressurized plasma using only injected air and electricity.

Speaking to Futurism on the prototype, Jau Tang said:

“I think the jet engine is more efficient than the electric motor. You can drive a car at much faster speeds. That’s what I have in mind: to combine the plasma jet engine with a turbine to drive a car.”

In a test, the prototype managed to launch a one-kilogram steel ball 24 millimeters into the air. That thrust, to scale, is equivalent to a commercial airplane jet engines’.

With that said, there’s a long way between a proof-of-concept prototype and a fully functional aircraft that uses air and electricity.

Read More: Meet the Company Developing a Jet-Powered Flying Motorcycle

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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