You are here

Compact High Current Molecular Atomic Particle Beam Generator


OBJECTIVE: Demonstrate the design of a micro-scale, ultra-compact, high-efficiency and massively scalable technology to create a high-velocity beam of atoms or molecules. DESCRIPTION: A high performance and ultra-compact design of a space propulsion system is one of the most important developments required to meet many of the future needs for military space. In particular, the rapid progress in nanotechnology and multiple fields of micro-scale manufacturing technology has allowed the design of increasingly smaller sensors and electronic devices, and the consequent reduction in satellite size and weights. Further advances in the utilization of highly-compact space platforms depends on the developments of commensurate thruster technologies. The recent advances in fluid flow control and sensors ("lab on a chip"), combined with nano-structured materials and techniques used in the semi-conductor industry provide an opportunity to develop an integrated micro- or nano-thruster, i.e.,"accelerator on a chip". The design should be able to accelerate the propellant up to 10^6 m/sec (or about 50/100 keV for argon propellant). The successful design should attempt to fully integrate the propellant management system and power processing with the acceleration/thrust-producing unit. A design that also incorporates all or most of the power generation sub-system is also desirable. An example of such an approach is a pyro-electric material, although other advanced materials and physical properties can be considered. The ability to take full advantage of massively parallel, mass-produced fabrication is essential and the effort should clearly provide a convincing path towards a high degree of scalability. While the proposed effort can be limited in developing, manufacturing and testing a single unit, theoretical arguments and/or numerical simulations can be used to justify the path to larger-scale units, thus eventually allowing operating power ranges from Watt to kilo-Watt. PHASE I: Demonstrate the feasibility of an approach through software/hardware simulations to meet topic requirements. While nanotechnology-based designs offer promising solutions, other approaches are also encouraged. PHASE II: Fabricate a prototype unit to fully demonstrate the Phase I concept within a laboratory environment. Demonstrate that the system meets defined requirements with the exception of reduced total power levels. It is desired that the Phase II prototype be delivered to the Government for additional evaluation by laboratory personnel. PHASE III: While the emphasis is propulsion, the technology could be adapted for other military purposes such as sensors. A potential commercial use could be found in high-precision manufacturing, similar to laser-processing, but possibly with wider applications. REFERENCES: 1. SMC/XR technology needs,"High current Molecular/ Atomic/ Particle Beam,""Miniature Electric Rocket Engine."2. SMC/XR concepts,"High Performance Space Rocket,""High Performance Booster,""Space Tug,""Matter Beam,""Beam Mass Transport Device."3. B. Naranjo, J.K. Gimzewski and S. Putterman,"Observation of Nuclear Fusion Driven by a Pyroelectric Crystal,"Nature (2005) Vol. 434, p.115. 4. N. Saito and A. Ogata,"Plasmon Linac; A laser wake-field accelerator based on a solid-state plasma,"Phys. Plasmas (2003) Vol. 10, p. 3358.
US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government