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January 10, 2007

Plasmoid thruster could lead to fusion

Researchers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville's (UAH) Propulsion Research Center are working on the Plasmoid Thruster Experiment (PTX). It is a stepping stone to a highly efficient propulsion concept which could ultimately change how we travel in space. Larger, more powerful versions can produce fusion for both power and space propulsion.

The purpose of the PTX is to investigate the fundamental plasma and acceleration properties of a small-scale, pulsed plasma thruster.

PTX works by ringing a single turn conical theta pinch coil at about 500 kHz, ionizing and accelerating a small quantity of gas. The magnetic field inside the coil creates a plasmoid, a plasma that has a closed magnetic field structure. The plasmoid thruster potentially has a much longer lifetime, because the plasma is formed inductively, which means that the plasma is not in contact with the thruster components.

The plasmoid thruster potentially has a much longer lifetime, because the plasma is formed inductively, which means that the plasma is not in contact with the thruster components.

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