YouTuber builds DIY ionic thruster that actually works

The device was invented in the 1900s.
Loukia Papadopoulos
A DIY ionic thruster.

Plasma Channel/YouTube 

The early 1900s saw all types of high voltage innovations of which ionic thrusters were one. Unfortunately, you don’t see many of these devices today which is too bad because they can be loads of fun.

Inspired by a 2018 MIT model

Now, a YouTuber called Jay Bowles who goes by the name Plasma Channel built one and posted the process on his channel on Saturday. He started his video off by saying he was partially inspired to build the thruster by MIT’s model developed in 2018.

This version of the technology actually made a vehicle fly. “Their design was brilliant,” said Bowles in his video. “And it included aspects of a decades-old device called an ionic lifter.”

This led Bowles to think about what could be a step beyond the iconic ionic filter design. “What is the evolution of ionic thrust?” he asked.

To answer that question, he built a multi-stage ionic thruster. Unlike a traditional fan or turbine, the device does not use moving parts to accelerate air. Instead, it uses specialized electrodes and whopping 40,000 volts.

“At its fundamental level ionic wind is actually pretty simple,” explains Bowles. ”It’s essentially air movement resulting from a DC electric field. With high enough voltages, a sharp positive electrode will ionize the surrounding air molecules.”

Those charged molecules are then repelled away and attracted to a wider ground electrode. In the process, they collide against other neutral air molecules and as such end up creating a flow of wind in that dedicated direction called electro hydrodynamic thrust.

“Or if you’re not a schmuck, you just call it ionic wind,” added Bowles.

This whole process can be taken to the next level through ionic lifters. When a high DC voltage is applied to these filters, usually from a big external power source, air flows down from a thin suspended wire towards the grounded metal body. This, in turn, causes lift.

A design tested throughout time

“It’s a design that is time tested, tried and true,” revealed Bowles admitting that for his own creation he was going to borrow from this model. He then proceeded to engineer and develop his own ionic thruster with several changes to this original model that make it more current and efficient.

When he is finally done, he decides to put it to the test by blowing out three candles that he has lit. His first trial does not go so well but after a few more tweaks and changes he managed to get his ionic thruster working with the added bonus that it actually glows in the dark.

The whole video plays like a DIY and this is definitely an experiment you could try at home with the right tools and accessories. For those, however, who would rather leave the engineering to the experts, this video provides just as much fun without the hassle of building a device yourself.

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