CFD modelling of ionic propulsion, the electric jet engine

Jason Knight, Arundeep Matharu, Nikesh Mehta, Ziaul Hoque, Carlson Ddamba, David Bickersteth, James Buick, Ethan Krauss, George Haritos

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


All aircraft engines work by pushing air backwards so that the aircraft moves forward. Ionic propulsion instead uses charged particles or ions that are generated using high voltages in between two electrodes. The ions interact with the surrounding air, creating an ionic wind that is sent backwards, propelling the aircraft forward. As with propeller-driven solar powered aircraft, ion drive craft are powered by electricity and do not need to carry fuel, other than batteries filled with charged particles. As well as being silent and carbon neutral, they are less likely to go wrong and cheaper to maintain than conventional engines because they have no propellers, turbines or fuel pumps to break down. The main challenge was that, in Earth’s gravity, the thrust produced by ion drive wasn’t enough to overcome the weight of the batteries needed to power it. However, with advances in battery setup and the way the electrical power is converted, it has been possible to reduce the battery weight enough to make this technology fly under its own power. The earlier VTOL version of the technology also required significant changes to its geometry, increasing thrust efficiency by about an order of magnitude, making onboard power possible. The use of Computational Fluid Dynamics to model the ionic wind can further improve efficiency. In this work we report the variation of lift to drag with change in vertical displacement of the emitter from the collector. Making further advances in aerodynamics, materials and power electronics could enable the aircraft to fly faster and for longer. It’s likely the technology will find its first application in silent UAVs. Use in crewed flight will require significant further technological advances.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the First International Conference on Aeronautical Sciences, Engineering and Technology
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of ICASET 2023
EditorsAbid Ali Khan, Mohammad Sayeed Hossain, Mohammad Fotouhi, Axel Steuwer, Anwar Khan, Dilek Funda Kurtulus
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9789819977758
ISBN (Print)9789819977741, 9789819977772
Publication statusPublished - 26 Dec 2023
EventICASET 2023 International Conference on Aeronautical Sciences, Engineering and Technology - Muscat, Oman
Duration: 3 Oct 20235 Oct 2023


ConferenceICASET 2023 International Conference on Aeronautical Sciences, Engineering and Technology

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