I am a high school student, and this year our school requires us to do this Year-long project, I chose building ionic thrusters as my project's first choice.

My question is, which type of ionic thrusters would be appropriate for this project? (my budget is around 400 dollars).

I am thinking of doing a hall-effect ionic thruster

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    $\begingroup$ A hall-effect ion thruster will probably need a vacuum to run in, and I am afraid that a vacuum chamber and pumps and associated equipment will eat much your budget pretty quickly. So step 1 is to find the highest pressure that some ion thruster will operate, and step 2 is to find the cheapest way to make a small vacuum chamber you can pump down to that pressure. If you just use a mechanical roughing pump I'm afraid that you'll light up the entire chamber with plasma if you've got DC or RF excitation. So this answer about atmospheric thrust... $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 17, 2023 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ Might be an idea. For more about that, have a look at Why don’t ionocrafts (ionic propelled aircrafts) use ducted ionic thrusters instead of open air thrusters? if you don't have access to a good vacuum. But first see Troubleshooting a DIY Ion Thruster Also see Ion Thruster Thrust Calculation Problem for some math. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 17, 2023 at 7:19
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh Will it still function if I create a Hall effect thruster but block off the exit with a elongated cube so that the plasma have some where to go and only vacuum the chamber itself? $\endgroup$ Jan 17, 2023 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ That's a great question, and I don't know the answer. Continuous flow of gas does put an extra load on the pumps, your base pressure will rise high unless your pumping speed is big enough to handle it. I think you can ask a new question about that, something like "Minimal vacuum system requirements to test a scale model ion thruster for a student project?" $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 17, 2023 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ What might make sense is basically making your chamber in the form of a longish tube (probably size 40 or size 50 vacuum hardware, for example) with the ion source at one end, then a restriction where ions pass from the ion source to where acceleration is happening, and finally the connection to the vacuum pump. Gas would be admitted through a barely-open needle valve or a long length of fine hypodermic tubing to the ion source section. $\endgroup$
    – ikrase
    Jan 18, 2023 at 9:46

1 Answer 1


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Apparently, this is a popular school project. You can try to follow this example:



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