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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

New Salt-based Propellant Rockets

•, by Brian Wang

This will make dual-mode rocket engines successful. It will function in both combustion and electric propulsion systems.

With electrospray or colloid propulsion, the thrusters electrostatically accelerate ions and droplets from these liquids. It's a technique that started in the biology/chemistry community, then the propulsion community began looking at it about 20 years ago.

Liquid is fed through a very small diameter needle, or capillary tube. At the tip of the tube, a strong electric field is applied that interacts with the liquid in the tube because the liquid itself is a conductor. The liquid responds to that electric field. Small droplets and ions get pulled out of the liquid—spraying them out of the tube or needle.

In this study, in addition to showing that the propellant could be sprayed, Rovey said they were interested in learning what kinds of chemical species come out in the plume. "Because no one has ever tried this type of propellant before, we expected to see species that no one else has ever seen before and, in fact, we did."