Scientists from Tohoku University and the Australian National University have made a significant advancement in plasma propulsion technology, which could potentially be used in the future for sending spacecraft to faraway planets or even powering flying cars.
They developed a prototype called the helicon double-layer thruster (HDLT), a plasma propulsion system that creates plasma by ionizing gas with radio-frequency alternating current. This plasma is then accelerated to generate thrust for spacecraft. In recent experiments, the researchers successfully controlled plasma, overcoming a long-standing barrier in the technology known as the plasma levitation problem.
While there are still engineering challenges to be addressed, the researchers believe that the HDLT’s performance could be improved and it could be used in space exploration and satellite applications. NASA has expressed interest in collaborating with the research team, as plasma propulsion systems offer more efficient and faster space travel compared to traditional chemical rocket propulsion.