Wind sandwich may overtake jets

Thrusters powered by ionic wind could be used as an alternative propulsion system for small, lightweight aircraft.

Ionic wind

The science of ionic wind

A 'wind sandwich', caused by a current passing between two electrodes (one thinner than the other) could, if enough voltage is applied, produce thrust without the use of motors or fuel.

Researchers at the world famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered that ionic wind produces 110 newtons of thrust per kilowatt, compared with just two newtons from a conventional jet engine. The team has published its results in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

As well as being highly efficient, the ionic thrusters are also silent and invisible to infrared detection as they give off no heat.

However, ionic wind propulsion doesn't hold all the answers to a move forward: so far, scientists have not yet found a way of creating enough thrust density to lift a small aircraft off the ground without using a structure the size of the entire vehicle itself. Another obstacle is producing enough voltage for lift-off.  Estimates from the existing research show a requirement of hundreds or thousands of kilovolts to generate enough momentum.

This is definitely a case of "watch this space" for further developments.