Analysis of electromagnetic propulsion of nonionized dipole gases

Michael M. Micci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A means by which the thrust-producing electromagnetic acceleration of a nonionized gas could be achieved was suggested recently. This acceleration is accomplished through the interaction of an alternating polarization in the exhaust medium with a synchronized alternating magnetic field. Two derivations of this force are presented along with quantitative experimental evidence of its existence. The thrust produced by such an interaction is proportional to the product of the polarization amplitude, the magnetic field strength, and the frequency of the field oscillation. Estimates of the thrust obtainable with naturally occurring atoms and molecules proved too small to provide for a variable thruster concept, therefore, artificial means of increasing the dipole moment were examined. Electronically excited or Rydberg atoms and molecules provide a proven means of obtaining increased polarization amplitudes; however, the decreased ionization potential negated their use as potential propellants. Comparison of alternating polarization thrusters with other electric propulsion concepts indicated that this method is not a viable advanced propulsion scheme at this time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-473
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1985

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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