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Ion Engines - Propellant

Postby joe_dunca26 » Fri Sep 24, 2021 8:36 am

What xenon compounds are used in ion engine prototypes?

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Re: Ion Engines - Propellant

Postby theborg » Sat Sep 25, 2021 7:10 am


Thank you for your question.

Ion thrusters work by ionizing propellant by adding or removing electrons from that propellant to produce ions (atoms with a net positive or negative charge). Most ion thrusters bombard propellant with high energy electrons. The collisions release electrons from the propellant atoms, resulting in a positively charged ion. This is called a plasma, and consists of both positive ions and negative electrons. Plasma is similar to a gas, but can be affected by electric and magnetic fields. Xenon is a very common propellant used in ion propulsion because it is easily ionized and has a high atomic mass, thus generating a desirable level of thrust when ions are accelerated. For added benefit, Xenon is inert and has a high storage density, making it is well suited for spacecraft. That being said, Xenon compounds are formed when mixed with other elements potentially creating a material that isn't as easily ionized. So rather than a Xenon compound, an ultra-pure Xenon gas is more desirable in ion thrusters.

I hope this helps.

~ The Borg

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